Lawsuit: 20 million gallons of contaminated water dumped into Ship Channel during ExxonMobil fire

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

BAYTOWN, Texas - Nearly 20 million gallons of contaminated water used to fight a fire at the ExxonMobil plant in Baytown last week was spilled into the Houston Ship Channel, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the state.

The lawsuit claims that during the fire that started July 31 and burned for nearly a day, three unauthorized discharges of the wastewater happened from a retention pond, which is meant to trap the water and pump it to a treatment plant at the refinery.

"Pumps used to pump firefighting wastewater from the retention pond at the plant to the wastewater treatment plant in the refinery became overwhelmed and were unable to keep up with the amount of firefighter wastewater entering the retention pond," the lawsuit reads.

DOCUMENT: Read state's lawsuit against ExxonMobil

State officials claim in the lawsuit that the first discharge of 10.4 million gallons happened sometime between July 31 and Aug. 1. The second, of 7.4 million gallons, happened Aug. 1 and the third, of 2.1 million gallons, happened Aug. 2, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that the second and third spills happened when rain overwhelmed the pumps.

The lawsuit also claims that ExxonMobil “emitted multiple air contaminants” during the fire without authorization from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

ExxonMobil officials said that they are still evaluating the lawsuit and released the following statement:

"ExxonMobil remains focused on the safety of our people and those in the surrounding community and continues to fully cooperate with authorities regarding this incident."

The suit seeks penalties in excess of $100,000.

Harris County has filed a similar lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

More than 30 people were injured in the fire. Some of those people have also filed lawsuits.

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