Air Quality

Published on September 11th, 2017 | by James Ayre

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Toxic Emissions From 46 Petrochemical Sites, Flooding At 14 Toxic Waste Sites, & ~100 Hazardous Substance Spills — Hurricane Harvey’s Talley To Date

September 11th, 2017 by  

Now that a bit of time has elapsed since Hurricane Harvey tore a path of destruction along the coast of Texas, things have begun to get clearer as regards the fate of Houston’s many petrochemical facilities.

Photo by Brant Kelly (some rights reserved)

The tally on that count, as it stands right now, is: flooding and/or damage reported at 14 toxic waste sites in or around Houston; around 100 spills of hazardous substances of various kinds; and the release of around 4.6 million pounds of airborne emissions (via 46 facilities in 13 different counties) “that exceeded state limits,” going by an analysis from the Environmental Defense Fund, Air Alliance Houston, and Public Citizen.

Notably, the emissions figures only relate to those that occurred between August 23 and August 30.

Altogether, the situation seems pretty bleak for those living in the areas most affected. Though, unsurprisingly, federal and state officials have stated that there’s “no cause for alarm” — based on the results of air monitoring, reportedly.

Here’s a brief “highlight reel” of Hurricane Harvey’s known achievements, via The New York Times: “A giant plastics plant in Point Comfort, about 100 miles southwest of Houston, released about 1.3 million pounds of excess emissions, including toxic gases like benzene, when it restarted after the storm. The plant is operated by Formosa Plastics, an affiliate of a Taiwanese petrochemicals conglomerate, and has a checkered safety record.

“…On Tuesday, Houston officials said they had detected high levels of benzene in a neighborhood in the city that is close to a damaged Valero Energy refinery. Loren Raun, the chief environmental science officer for the Houston Health Department, said that the readings varied depending on which way the wind was blowing but that officials were seeing ‘high numbers’.

“…The United States Coast Guard’s National Response Center tracks reports of oil spills and other chemical releases. Those reports can be filed both by companies and by members of the public. From Aug. 24 to Sept. 3, callers made 96 reports of oil, chemical or sewage spills across southeast Texas.

“…Harris County, home to Houston, hosts more than two dozen current and former toxic waste sites designated under the federal Superfund program. At least 14 of these sites — whose grounds are contaminated with dioxins, lead, arsenic, benzene, or other compounds from industrial activities — were flooded or damaged by Hurricane Harvey.”

Apparently, some of these dangerous Superfund sites were protected from the elements (and thus the spread of their contamination) by nothing but tarps held down with loose rocks. Presumably, more than an insignificant amount of the dangerous compounds found at these sites was spread far and wide by the flood waters brought by Hurricane Harvey.





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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



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