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All ITC tanks containing pygas secured, portion of ship channel reopened, officials say

DEER PARK, Texas – It has been over a week since a fire broke out at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park, sending a plume of smoke over the city and causing havoc for area residents.

ITC officials gave an update on the incident Wednesday, 10 days after the initial fire broke out. 

SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE FOR AN INTERACTIVE TIMELINE OF EVENTS

The company gave a status update Tuesday, and while ITC officials touched on several topics, there was no mention of the lawsuits that have been filed, including one by Harris County and another by the Texas attorney general.

 

Crews are working to clean and contain containment’s in the water following the fire at ITC in Deer Park. I’ll be out here with a live report at 5.

Posted by KPRC2 Brittany Jeffers on Wednesday, March 27, 2019

 

According to Rich Howes, with the U.S. Coast Guard, a limited number of vessels were able to get through the ship channel with minimal impact so they have decided to reopen a portion of the ship channel.

WATCH: Officials give update on ship channel, tanks secured

“The captain of the port in Houston has now made the decision to reopen the Houston ship channel from Tucker Bayou to light 116 for vessel traffic for both inbound and outbound,” Howes said. 

Howes added the reopened portion will be limited to daylight hours only.

Brent Weber, ITC's incident commander, said significant progress was made in pumping the tanks.

All tanks containing pygas have been secured and they are actively pumping one other tank Wednesday.

"I'm proud to report we made good progress yesterday. Tank 80-10 is now secure. That is an important milestone for the remediation effort because it was the last of the Pygas tanks we were working to secure,” Weber said.

When asked about the lawsuits, Weber said his focus was on getting ITC through the incident and he does not comment on ongoing litigation.

RELATED: Texas attorney general files lawsuit against ITC for violations of Texas Clean Air Act

Adam Adams, with the Environmental Protection Agency, said there have been no significant changes in air quality. No high levels of benzene or any other toxic gas have been detected in the area.

On Tuesday, Adams mentioned a consumption warning for fish in the ship channel. Wednesday he clarifies saying that warning has been in effect for years and there have been no additional warnings since the fire erupted.

Weber said ITC has a plan in place to enter the tank farm and be more active and aggressive in the cleanup process.

Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton said safety is the top priority and crews will continue to monitor the air and water.

"Everyday that I come out here, I see continuous levels of involvement with our responders that our continuing to work hard to make sure our safety is ensured," Mouton said.

VIDEO: John Cornyn address Deer Park ITC fire investigation on Senate floor

Cleanup continues

The fire started Sunday, March 17, and spread throughout the facility, engulfing nine of the 15 tanks in the area. It was put out around 2 a.m. Wednesday, March 20.

Nearly 12 hours later, the fire reignited, sending a fireball into the air. Crews were able to put the fire out quickly, but the incident was far from over. 

RELATED: La Porte residents file lawsuit against ITC after chemical facility fire

On Thursday, after the fire had been out and crews had started pumping the chemicals out of the remaining tanks, benzene – a known carcinogen – was detected in the air, prompting more school closures and another shelter-in-place order.

Though the shelter-in-place order was lifted, schools remained closed for the rest of the week. 

On Friday, just as ITC officials were starting to seem hopeful the situation was going in the right direction, there was a break in a dike wall near the facilitie's incinerated tanks. 

RELATED: ITC's economic impact: Local business owners hope Ship Channel to reopen soon

Hours after the break, two tanks and chemical runoff in a ditch caught fire, sending yet another plume of smoke over the Deer Park area.

The fire was contained and crews have been working to secure the site and prevent another reignition since.

Check out the timeline of events below:


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