Fire Continues at Texas Petrochemical Plant as Company's History of Violations Gets Renewed Scrutiny
By Andrea Germanos
A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.
The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks" and "base oil."
"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.
PETROCHEMICAL FIRE IN TEXAS: A fire at a fuels storage company has spread to eight massive petrochemical storage ta… https://t.co/09nGy5xSZv— NowThis (@NowThis)1552927856.0
ITC Terminal fire still throwing up a tremendous plume. Dominating the Houston skyline at dawn. https://t.co/pMYTyoPB6O— Tracy Hester (@Tracy Hester)1552911539.0
No injuries were immediately reported.
"Although the risk of explosion is minimal, we continue to take precautions to further reduce this possibility," the company said in a statemnt.
An order to shelter in place for the city of Deer Park was lifted Monday morning.
Filming outside the plant on Monday, local ABC13 reporter Miya Shay said that despite the assertion by the city, informed by results from a private air monitoring contractor, that the air quality was safe, it is "hard to believe it's all fine."
I am at the ITC plant fire, where company officials insist the air quality is within limits. Fire May take two more… https://t.co/jbYdCYAwFc— Miya Shay (@Miya Shay)1552926034.0
As Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, pointed out, "Intercontinental Terminals estimates the fire has already resulted in 3.1 million pounds of unauthorized emissions. That's more than all the facilities in the Houston area put out during Harvey."
What's more, he said, the company "has a history of violations. For example, the company discharged cyanide into the impaired Tucker Creek eight times above permitted levels — once as high as 1138 percent above the permit."
Intercontinental Terminals estimates the fire has already resulted in 3.1 million pounds of unauthorized emissions.… https://t.co/uw2NqFIxia— Luke Metzger (@Luke Metzger)1552930294.0
Intercontinental Terminals Company, which has 8 tanks on fire right now, has a history of violations. For example,… https://t.co/gFiH1O4kTH— Luke Metzger (@Luke Metzger)1552916996.0
The Texas arm of advocacy group Public Citizen pointed to the recent incidents as evidence that the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should do a better job at protecting public health:
In 2016, a @houstonchron investigation found a chemical incident in the Houston area every six weeks. We've seen tw… https://t.co/CMCqSXsDKH— Public Citizen Texas (@Public Citizen Texas)1552934146.0
'Unseen dangers' of Harvey: Petrochemical plants release 1 million pounds of harmful air pollution. https://t.co/dE8abfrhrx— EDF (@EDF)1504133653.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
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What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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