DEER PARK, Texas — A shelter-in-place order is in effect Thursday morning for the cities of Deer Park and Galena Park after action levels of benzene were detected in the area, according to the East Harris County Manufactures Association.
Intercontinental Terminals Company posted the alert to the association's website saying that around 3:15 a.m. a chemical odor incident occurred at the facility. They say the odor may be noticeable to the community.
Harris County emergency management officials released the following statement:
"Our first concern is for the safety of our community. We have identified benzene vapor coming from the site of the fire. We knew vapor releases were a possibility and our plan was activated and executed as designed.
Harris County pollution control and the Texas National Guard’s 6th civil support team, Harris county hazardous materials team and City of Houston’s hazardous materials team have set two perimeters at varying distances around the site to identify and analyze air quality readings in real time.
The readings have crossed our very conservative air quality standards, related to OSHA standards, to determine, out of an abundance of caution, there should be a shelter in place in the immediate area, which the city of Deer Park has announced.
We know this is concerning, especially to residents in the area of the shelter in place. We are continuing to monitor to verify if this is a short-term, one time exposure or a longer exposure. At the level of Benzene we are seeing now for the current duration it should not cause symptoms even in the area impacted. That said, if you believe you are having symptoms and are sheltered in place, please call 911."
The latest development has resulted in multiple school district closures as well as the complete shutdown of State-Highway 225 from Beltway 8 to Highway 146.
In response, the following school districts have closed:
- San Jacinto Community College
- Deer Park ISD
- La Porte ISD
- Pasadena ISD
- Sheldon ISD
- Channelview ISD
- Galena Park ISD
- KIPP Northeast Campus (Legacy, Polaris, Voyage, Northeast College Prep)
- KIPP East End Campus (Intrepid, Explore)
- KIPP South East Campus (Climb, Prime)
- YES Prep Southeast
- YES Prep East End
The tank fire in Deer Park was extinguished Wednesday morning. There was a brief flare up later that evening, but we aren't seeing any smoke Thursday morning.
At first, the shelter-in-place was for facility personnel only but has since been expanded to the entire area.
A lot of people are concerned with how the fire has impacted the air quality. Hazardous levels have not been reported. Thursday morning, much of the Houston area is in the moderate category, according to the EPA's website AirNow.gov.
What you should do:
Residents are advised to remain indoors and to close all doors, windows and other sources of outside air. Turn off air conditioning or heating systems and close the fireplace damper to keep chemical vapors from entering. Please continue to monitor City of Deer Park outlets for updated information.
Full Shelter-in-Place instructions
Per Deer Park’s website, http://www.deerparktx.gov/1722/Shelter-In-Place, instructions for Shelter-in-Place are as follows:
- Go Inside Immediately: Seek the nearest enclosed structure, whether it is a house, business, garage or vehicle. If you know of any unattended child in your neighborhood, call them and tell them to remain indoors. Keep any pets inside also. Gather emergency supplies like a portable radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
- Close all doors, windows and other sources of outside air. Turn off air conditioning or heating systems and close the fireplace damper to keep chemical vapors from entering. Ceiling fans or rotary fans inside the building can be safely used to keep cool. Cover any gaps, holes or cracks with wet towels or sheets to prevent vapors from entering your home.
If you have trouble breathing, contact 9-1-1.
For real-time information on readings and public health visit readyharris.org/deerparkfire
- Air Quality Data: ReadyHarris.org
- Health Information: Harris County Public Health
- Fixed Air Monitoring Sites: TCEQ