Shell Deer Park fire concerns extend to water contamination from the firefighting, company says

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Monday, May 8, 2023
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Air and now water concerns are being monitored in the aftermath of the Shell Deer Park fire. While there was no one killed, the company's silence for almost three days after the disaster loomed large.

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- Shell said it has "regrets" on how it handled the response to last Friday's fire in Deer Park after not answering media questions until 70 hours after the ordeal.

A portion of the Shell facility in Deer Park off Highway 225 caught fire. Why the massive fire broke out is still under investigation. Three days after smoke went into the air, the company finally answered questions after missing a news conference on Friday.

"Our intention was to be there," Nate Levin, Shell Deer Park's general manager, said. "We were actually on our way to the press conference on Friday and there was a miscommunication on our side and that's a regret."

Shell said the fire is out, but it's trying to contain hotspots and cool equipment. The company said the ignited product was gas oil.

PREVIOUS STORY: Fire reignites, air monitoring continues hours after Deer Park Shell facility fire extinguished

Fifteen workers had to receive medical treatment. The company, county, state and federal agencies are monitoring the air. So far, they haven't found any concerns.

"We're not saying there weren't no detections," Kelly Cook, deputy director of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, explained. "We were saying any detections were very low and certainly well below any levels of concern."

It's not just the air, but water too. Because of the water needed to fight the fire and the weekend's rain, contaminated liquids went into the Houston Ship Channel.

It has since stopped, but at one point, 11,000 gallons were discharged per minute.

"We've asked them to collect water samples and make sure they had their booms in place, which they've done," Cook said. "We're also sampling, collecting our own samples as well."

TCEQ has looked into the Shell facility before. 13 Investigates discovered a handful of previous violations within the past few years, where the company was hit with tens of thousands of dollars of fines after the TCEQ said the "emissions events" could've been avoided by better practices.

"We have looked at all the past violations and taken those into consideration and looked at that," Cook explained. "Right now, we're at the point where we take the current circumstances and apply those to the compliance history."

It's an environmental investigation for Shell as it also tries to figure out why the fire started in the first place.

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