Evacuation order in La Porte lifted following chemical leak at Dow facility

Chemical leaking at Dow Chemical Facility in La Porte
Chemical leaking at Dow Chemical Facility in La Porte

LA PORTE, Texas – The La Porte Office of Emergency Management has lifted an evacuation order Thursday following a chemical leak Wednesday morning.

Officials said Dow’s Houston Operations Bayport site is stable and, in partnership with local officials, has downgraded the leak to a Level 1.

A half-mile radius around the facility was under an evacuation order but as of Thursday afternoon, has been discontinued. Officials said Fairmont Parkway and Bay Area Boulevard are now open in both directions. Officials said those who live or own a business located in the half-mile evacuation radius can now return to the area.

Dow Chemical said Thursday the site is stable and personnel has continued to manage the “tank event” that began Wednesday morning. Dow said there is no off-site impact.

The chemical, which was identified as Hydroxyethyl Acrylate, is usually used in acrylics for coating and adhesives, among other uses, according to Harris County Pollution Control. Hydroxyethyl Acrylate is known to cause irritation of the nose and throat, and contact with the liquid can irritate the eyes and skin.

On Wednesday, the La Porte Police Department said Hydroxyethyl Acrylate was still venting from the tanker trunk and emergency personnel will continue to monitor the situation.

“Something could happen within that tank, but based on the information they have, that half-mile radius, they are confident that if that occurs, it’s going to occur within that particular area. They have made sure the area is evacuated,” an official with the Harris County Fire Marshal’s office said.

The La Porte Office of Emergency Management issued an evacuation order for some residents after the chemical leak/release from the Dow Chemical facility, located at 13300 Bay Area Blvd. The evacuation order was issued in the event the materials inside the tanker truck caused a fire or explosion.

“If I don’t hear anything in a little bit, I’ll just probably go home and pack something and head somewhere else just to be safe,” neighbor Monica Aleman said.

Aleman said she doesn’t live in the evacuation area but doesn’t want to take any chances. Her father called her at work earlier in the day as the situation was unfolding.

“My daughter was at home so he went and got her and they all evacuated,” she said.

Emergency officials initially asked residents in all areas east of the Bay Area to shelter-in-place but later announced that the shelter-in-place order had been lifted.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the shelter in place order had initially been issued in the event the chemical incident caused any air quality issues that could affect area residents. Harris County’s pollution control department monitored the air consistently and did not identify any dangerous or out-of-the-ordinary readings and so the shelter in place was lifted.

“There is no indication by monitoring data that this event has caused the off-site impact,” a statement read. “However, out of an abundance of caution, employees were evacuated and we continue to work with the Office of Emergency Preparedness on a shelter in place. Thanks to the work of our employees, contract partners, and emergency services there are no injuries associated with this ongoing event. "

The Dow Chemical Facility sent two emergency personnel into the facility to conduct thermal assessments of the tanker truck in order to determine whether the reaction is decreasing or whether it’s increasing, Hidalgo said.

There are two other trucks situated near the tanker truck involved in the chemical incident. One truck is carrying the same product, hydroxyethyl acrylate, and another truck is carrying methyl methacrylate.

The area around the tanker truck is largely industrial. There are two other production facilities within a half-mile radius of the Dow chemical plant. They remain in operation as it would take several days to power down such facilities, Hidalgo said. Several employees remain working at those facilities to ensure they continue to run safely. A handful of homes are situated around the northern part of the perimeter. Those residents were urged to leave, Hidalgo said.

Watch the media briefing in its entirety below:

Officials said there are no major threats to the public at this moment
Officials said there are no major threats to the public at this moment

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee said his office is monitoring the situation.

“My office is aware of the ongoing chemical incident in La Porte,” said Menefee in a statement. “We’re in communication with Harris County’s Pollution Control Services Department, who is on scene and investigating the issues. We’re considering all legal options to keep Harris County residents safe.”

About the Authors:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team as a community associate producer in 2019. During her time in H-Town, she's covered everything from fancy Houston homes to tropical storms. Previously, she worked at Austin Monthly Magazine and KAGS TV, where she earned a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for her work as a digital producer.