ITC Deer Park fire subject of Texas State House hearing

By Rose-Ann Aragon - Reporter

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas lawmakers at the Capitol in Austin are holding a hearing Friday to get answers about the Intercontinental Terminal Co. facility fire in Deer Park.

CLICK/TAP HERE TO WATCH A LIVE STREAM

Two Texas House of Representatives committees are hearing from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton.

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

One of the representatives on the Environmental Regulations Committee is asking for clarification about the fire investigation.

"We need to find out exactly why that happened, how it happened, how it possibly could have been prevented and what we need to do in the future from preventing that sort of thing from happening," Rep. Ed Thompson said.

Lawmakers will also discuss concerns over air quality, shelter-in-place orders and schools that were impacted. 

State legislators expressed concern over the timeline of events and how long the fire had been burning.

"A chemical burning for 47 minutes, and no one knows what it ... none of those citizens downwind know what they're breathing for 47 minutes, and that's what I have a problem with," State Representative Rep. Mary Ann Perez, House District 144, said.

At the nearly three-hour hearing, the different agencies explained where their organizations stood after the fire that happened March 17.

"When this event is concluded -- we will be performing at 360 reviews," Baker said. "We will use that review to better hone our responses."

Baker said the response has cost about $1 million. He also addressed issues regarding the lack of calibration for certain air quality monitors Monday after the fire. In addition, Baker suggested that the TCEQ get updated equipment so that air-monitoring methods could be more advanced and more efficient.

Legislators were interested to know who is accountable for making sure that these kinds of events are prevented.

"We do not regulate the placements of tanks or the containment walls surrounding them. We do not regulate the type of firefighter foam used or the water pressure required. We are not first responders," Baker said.

The TCEQ said nine tanks have been secured. Three still have a chemical product and sludge. He also said that reignition of the fire is still possible. So far, the teams have been able to collect 209,000 barrels of contaminated substances. The recovery is still active. Harris County officials said it's the longest active response since Hurricane Harvey.

 

Check out the timeline of events below:

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.