Residents: Refinery powder still lingering in Texas City air

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Galveston communities coated with a white dust after a chemical release more than a month ago are concerned that it hasn't gone away (KTRK)

Galveston communities coated with a white dust after a chemical release more than a month ago are concerned that it hasn't gone away.

"It looked like snow," Terry Howard said of the catalyst dust that was released from Marathon's Galveston Bay refinery on January 13.

Howard says she still sees the dust in cracks and still feels it.

"It burned. It was like sandpaper but it burned. It was like your eyes were sticking shut," said Howard, a resident of Omega Bay for 22 years.

She showed us paperwork from her doctor diagnosing her with a scratched cornea. She believes the dust, a mixture of aluminum, nickel and mostly silica or crushed glass, got into her eyes.

Thousands of pounds of it settled on homes, cars and in the waterways. According to a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) report, it lasted almost 23 hours.

Despite industrial-strength cleanings paid for or provided by Marathon, the white stuff still lingers and a number of residents in the Bayou Vista and Omega Bay communities believe it's making them and their pets sick.

"It kind of comes and goes in waves. We go through coughing fits," Heather Crich told Eyewitness News.

Crich is waiting on test results for her, but daughter Alexis, 13, has already been diagnosed with bronchial spasms, according to her parents. She is in choir and says it's affected her voice.

"I definitely think it's because of the catalyst," said father Gary Crich.

The family attended a grass-roots meeting Monday night at the Bayou Vista Community Center along with two-dozen people. They want answers for what ails them or their pets, or the potential danger to the soil and wildlife.

"We want to know what's really going on," added Howard.

No one with Marathon Petroleum returned calls or emails requesting comment. On a recorded telephone line, the company released that it had cleaned 180 homes and 670 cars and reimbursed 700 homeowners who opted to clean their own homes.
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