Broken valve blamed for elevated butadiene levels in Port Neches

The Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management lifted the voluntary evacuation order for the community of Port Neches after they say the levels of leaked butadiene in the air had gone down to “non-irritating” levels.

PORT NECHES, Texas – A broken pressure valve is being blamed for elevated levels of a dangerous chemical that were detected in the air near Port Neches on Wednesday and prompted a voluntary evacuation order, which was lifted Thursday.

The valve was on a tank at the TPC facility that caught fire after a series of explosions eight days ago. The tank contained the cancer-causing chemical butadiene, which officials said they are working to remove.

“The levels that were detected near the facility and in the community during the course of this event were far below what might contribute to longterm health risk,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said. “We dont take it lightly in upending them again. We certainly don’t want to put human health or the environment at risk.”

Trent Anderson lives in Port Neches, less than a quarter-mile away from the TPC plant. He said TPC sent a toxicologist to his house who told him it was safe to move back in. Anderson said he doesn’t believe them.

“Not one bit,” Anderson said. “They work for TPC, so they’re coming in saying levels are great. I need an independent person coming in. That’s how I feel right now. It’s been really frustrating, and to be honest, we are kind of sick and tired."

Branick said there are about 30 air-monitoring sites in the area and there have been now levels of butadiene that would affect someone’s health, but officials said some people have been feeling ill.

“You can get a headache just based on the odor itself, not based on any kind of toxicity response,” said Dr. Angie Perez. “So think about it in terms of you dont like perfume. My mom hates perfume. She gets headaches at the slightest whiff of perfume. Doesnt mean she’s having a toxic response. Butadiene is one of those chemicals where it’s a nuisance odor.”

The Chemical Safety Board has said last week’s plant explosion may have been caused by a system failure. TPC officials would not say if they agreed with those remarks.

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