ITC CEO Bernt Netland releases video response 10 days after Deer Park fire
DEER PARK, Texas – The CEO of Intercontinental Terminals Co. spoke Wednesday, 10 days after a chemical fire at its Deer Park facility.
In a YouTube video posted by ITC entitled "ITC President & CEO Responds," Bernt Netland apologized to the community and thanked first responders and others for the response to the tank fire, which started on March 17 and burned for several days.
SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE FOR AN INTERACTIVE TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Here's a transcription of Netland's remarks:
"Please let me begin my remarks by expressing my apology and a collective apology of everyone at ITC for the impact caused by the terminal fire.
"The majority of our employees live in the communities that surround our facilities. All of us are profoundly upset the incident happened and very sorry for its impact on the surrounding communities.
"Since the incident started, we have been working side-by-side with the joint response team, a group of top professionals from local, state and federal agencies.
"I want to thank all the first responders. I also want to thank the many members of the local, state and federal agencies who are here under the unified command.
"The professionalism of all these individuals is outstanding and a credit to them all.
"I pledge to you that we are making all available necessary resources to resolve this.
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.
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 facility's incinerated tanks.
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.
Harris County filed a lawsuit against the company Wednesday claiming, “ITC is responsible for burning and air emissions in violation of the state’s Clean Air Act, discharging industrial waste into nearby waters in violation of state law and county regulations, and violation of county floodplain regulations by not having development permits for structures at its facility."
Harris County Pct. 3 Commissioner, Steve Radack, has been critical of ITC’s response over the past 10 days.
He saw the online apology, and while he appreciates it, he wasn’t impressed.
Radack said it may have been a "gesture of kindness," but the county and state are still suing the company.
"It’s very lame. I mean, here you are, days after the event, and you’re responding on YouTube or whatever. It kind of a strange thing to do,” Radack said. “I’d call it lame. I guess you can say some nice thank yous to local, state and federal government agencies, but we all had to respond. It’s our job to do it, and it’s his job to keep this place safe."
Radack also criticized the company’s spokesperson who became choked up while apologizing to the public during several news conferences.
"You would think you would hear from the top people, but I think that the response of crying and saying, 'We’re a good company,' ... probably did more to upset the victims of this (than) appease them in any form," he said.
Said the commissioner, "The Harris County government is taking this extremely serious and (on) behalf of not only the financial side to the county with the loss of money or whatever and the victims, and we have no idea how many victims there will be. Obviously (this) was a very traumatizing and bad event."
Check out the timeline of events below:
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