Houston-area residents face air quality risk

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on March 21, 2019 - Duration: 00:58s

Houston-area residents face air quality risk

Residents of a Houston-area community were told to remain indoors and schools were closed on Thursday after the remnants of a petrochemical plant fire that burned for days released high levels of benzene.

Intercontinental Terminals Company's spokeswoman Alice Richardson said the situation is being monitored 'continously'.

Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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Houston-area residents face air quality risk

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Residents of a Houston-area community were told to remain indoors and schools were closed on Thursday after the remnants of a petrochemical plant fire that burned for days released high levels of volatile organic compounds into the air.

The three-day blaze at Mitsui unit Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) in Deer Park, Texas, was extinguished early on Wednesday.

No injuries were reported.

The City of Deer Park, 20 miles (32 km) east of Houston, issued a shelter-in-place advisory to its 34,000 residents after reports of "action levels" of benzene or other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) within city limits, the municipality said on its website.

Residents were advised to remain indoors, close all doors and windows and turn off air conditioning and heating systems. They were also told to cover any gaps, holes or cracks with wet towels or sheets to prevent vapors from entering their homes.

A state highway was also closed in the city and the Deer Park Independent School District canceled classes.

The fire, which began on Sunday morning, destroyed 11 tanks of gasoline and other fuels.

Before the fire, the facility had 242 tanks able to hold up to 13.1 million barrels of fuels.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined, officials said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality estimated that on the first day of the fire, 6.2 million pounds of carbon monoxide and thousands of pounds of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and toluene were released.

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