EPA: Benzene detected near San Jacinto Port did not require emergency action


DEER PARK, Texas – It has been 12 days since a massive fire broke out at Intercontinental Terminals Co., and crews are still working to clean up the chemicals and tank farm.

Officials with ITC have been giving daily updates since the fire started. In Friday's update, officials said progress was moving along quickly and crews were working diligently to keep it that way.

Adam Adams, with the Environmental Protection Agency, said air monitors picked up elevated levels of benzene near the San Jacinto Port area, but the detections were not sustained.

Adams said all the information was relayed to local government and other officials. When a second air quality check was done, benzene was no longer detected so it did not require emergency action.

"The communication process, it worked," Adams said. "We got the hit, we disseminated down, and the (benzene detection) wasn't sustained. So that was like we wanted it to be."

Adams said several animals in the immediate Tuckers Bayou area have been found dead including turtles, fish and birds. One bird was rescued but later died. He said the causes of death for the animals are not known

ITC executive, Brent Weber said crews were able to secure one of the remaining tanks Thursday and began pumping two more.

The next goal for Friday is to begin pumping three more of the remaining tanks that contain gasoline blend and base oil.

Kevin Oditt with the U.S. Coast Guard said the Houston Ship Channel remains partially open to daylight traffic and he does not know when it will resume normal flow.


The CEO of ITC, Bernt Netland, had stayed silent through most of the incident, but after multiple questions from the community asking where he was, he issued an apology on YouTube, saying in part: 

"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 … “I pledge to you that we are making all available necessary resources to resolve this.”

RELATED: 'I'm proud to work for Mr. Netland:' ITC official responds to CEO apology

When asked about Netland's response, ITC executive Brent Weber defended his CEO's comments, saying his boss is sincere in his apology to the community.

"My CEO has been here from the beginning of this incident, and his focus is recovering the response effort, the remediation effort and to make sure that ITC, along with all of our governmental agencies partners, are successful in seeing this through to completion," Weber said. "I know my CEO. I know his character. I can assure you that he's sincere, he's genuine, and when he speaks, he speaks from the heart. I'm proud to work for Mr. Netland and I'm proud that he's my CEO."

The company is facing multiple lawsuits, including one filed by Harris County and one filed by the Texas attorney general.

RELATED: Harris County sues ITC over Deer Park chemical fire

According to the Harris County lawsuit, "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."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit Friday, March 22, for violations of the Texas Clean Air Act.

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

When asked to give a comment on the lawsuits, ITC officials declined, saying they do not comment on ongoing litigation.

Check out the timeline of events below:

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