DEER PARK, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Just one day after a fire at a petrochemicals storage facility near Houston was extinguished, concerns about air quality in the area lead officials to issue a Shelter-in-Place order.
The order for the City of Deer Park — issued before sunrise and lifted before noon — was due to increased levels of benzene, and other volatile organic compounds, in the air. National Guard troops were called in to establish perimeters along streets and highways around the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) plant.
For hours residents were advised to stay inside and to close all doors, windows and other sources of outside air. In light of the order, the Deer Park Independent School District cancelled school for the day and City facilities delayed opening.
Officials said the order was lifted “after receiving consistent air quality readings” below actionable limits and assurances about safety from public health officials in Harris County.
Earlier Thursday ITC officials has said the levels of benzene were “below those that represent an immediate risk” and that the shelter in place order was given out of an abundance of caution.
In an 11:40 a.m. update from the City of Deer Park, Emergency Services Manager Robert Hemminger said, “According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Harris County HAZMAT teams and a private contractor on-site at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) Deer Park site, air quality readings are improving, and over the last few hours, they have been significantly reduced.
Highways in the area were reopened and barricades along city streets removed after the order was lifted. City of Deer Park facilities are scheduled to reopen at 1:00 p.m.
Officials say air quality monitoring in the area will continue “until the conclusion of the incident.”
The fire at ITC began in a single tank Sunday afternoon. Ultimate the blaze spread to seven tanks shooting flames and thick, black smoke in the air for nearly four days. The huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles, including from the Galveston Ferry, about 35 miles from the blaze.
The tanks that caught fire contained gasoline and gasoline blended materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner.