Houston Ship Channel remains closed in the wake of ITC fire

webcover Photo by Kevin Brost

UPDATE - March 26

Unified Command continues clean-up operations at the Intercontinental Terminals Company LLC (ITC) facility, Tucker Bayou and Houston Ship Channel near Deer Park, Texas.

Since March 19, 2019, more than 1,100 federal, state and local first responders, agencies, and environmental cleanup contractors have been on the scene and actively assessing, booming and continuing to remove product from affected areas.

We continue to pump liquid out of tank 80-7 and have less than 6 inches (approximately 1,122 barrels or 47,127 gallons) remaining in the tank. The remaining liquid is mostly water.

ITC operational personnel are currently transferring product from 80-14 and will continue transferring product from tank 80-10 to tank 80-18 until tanks 80-14 and 80-10 are empty.

Tank 80-15 is empty.

We are still pumping product from the ditch using vacuum trucks and hoses. That product is being transferred to tank 100-28. We are still foaming the tank farm hourly to maintain a 2-foot level of foam.

We continue to monitor air and water quality. Updates are available on ITC’s web page (www.iterm.com/news), as well as those of the responding agencies.

The Coast Guard Captain of the Port opened the San Jacinto River to allow for vessel traffic during daylight hours only. The Houston Ship Channel remains closed to traffic between Tucker Bayou and HSC Light 116 with the exception of coordinated vessel movement by the Coast Guard and closed for cargo operations from HSC Light 139 to HSC Light 129.

Tucker Bayou and the water adjacent ITC piers remain the primary impacted areas and the product is contained within booming. Overflights confirmed as of 1:30 p.m. on Sunday that the western leading edge of the product is located at Patrick Bayou and the eastern leading edge is at Old River, with pockets of additional product in the vicinity of Lynchburg Ferry and San Jacinto Port.

Booms have been deployed, covering Tucker Bayou, the ITC docks, Patrick Bayou, Old River, Carpenter Bayou, Battleship Texas, Santa Ana Bayou, the western shore of the mouth of the San Jacinto River, and the oyster beds located in Burnett Bay.

Incident Summary:

Response Assets:

  • Personnel assigned: 611
  • Fire-fighting/rescue equipment: 64
  • Product removal vehicles: 20
  • Boom deployed: 27,000 feet
  • Aircraft: 5

Skimmers have recovered more than 30,952 barrels of oil water mixture as cleanup crews work 24 hours a day.

Recovered material:

  • Oily water mixture: 30,952 barrels removed from the water
  • Pyrolysis gasoline (or Pygas) 12,647 barrels removed from tank 80-7

Our major goals for the next 24 hours:

  • Continue to protect and remediate environmentally sensitive areas including waterways, marshes and land. Place additional boom across Tucker Bayou.
  • Continue operations to remove product from tanks in the affected area while maintaining an appropriate foam barrier for vapor suppression and to mitigate any re-ignition potential.

LA PORTE, Texas; Saturday, March 23, 2019 – (UPDATE). This is a 10:00 a.m. update regarding the fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) LLC in La Porte, Texas. At approximately 12:15 p.m. on March 22, the secondary containment wall surrounding the western tank farm adjacent to tank 80-7 was breached, releasing foam and product into the ditch that runs East to West on Tidal Road.

The breach was approximately 10 feet wide. While some of the liquid remained contained behind the barrier, some is known to have escaped. The root cause of the breach remains under investigation. The containment wall was secured at 4:00 a.m. on March 23.

Due to the breach, there was a release of product causing a localized elevation in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In response, a shelter-in-place was recommended to our industrial neighbors and the areas adjacent to the Battleship Texas and the San Jacinto Monument State Park.

At approximately 3:45 p.m. on March 22, a fire reignited on tanks 80-2, 80-3 and 80-5. The fire spread to the liquid that had escaped through the containment wall into the adjacent ditch. Firefighters on scene responded immediately by placing foam on the fires, extinguishing the flames at approximately 4:45 p.m. In collaboration with local officials and regulatory agencies, we continue to monitor VOC levels in the community. Current readings in the community are below action levels. Independence Parkway, the San Jacinto Monument, the Battleship Texas State Parks, and the Lynchburg Ferry crossing are currently closed due to intermittent levels of volatile organic compounds.

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LA PORTE, Texas; Thursday, March 22, 2019 – (UPDATE) – Tanks in the west side of the containment area have re-ignited.

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The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will investigate the recent fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) site in Deer Park, TX. CSB investigators will start interviews next week and plan to be on site for several days to document the scene and collect evidence. The massive fire, which began on March 17th, engulfed 11 above ground storage tanks containing a variety of hydrocarbons, resulting in multiple orders for community members to Shelter in Place. 

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LA PORTE, Texas; Thursday, March 21, 2019 – (UPDATE). - This is a 6:00 AM update regarding the fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) LLC in La Porte, Texas: The fire remains extinguished; however, onsite responders are reporting increased levels of benzene. These levels are below those that represent an immediate risk.

We have notified the surrounding municipalities and out of an abundance of caution Deer Park Emergency Operations Center has called for shelter in place precautions immediately for all of Deer Park. The Deer Park Police Department has notified us that Highway 225 is being closed from Beltway 8 to Miller Cutoff.

ITC responders are working actively to reduce the cause that may be responsible for the elevated readings. Emergency responders continue to monitor air quality as ITC coordinates its response with the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Harris County, and other Federal, State, and local agencies.

 

La Porte, TX (March 20, 2019) – The following statement is being issued from the Intercontinental Terminals Co. LLC in La Porte, TX, 1943 Independence Parkway South at 4 a.m.

As of 3:00 am today, the firefighting crews on the scene of the ITC Tank Farm Fire are reporting that all tank fires have been extinguished. Crews continue to spray foam and water on the tanks to facilitate cooling and prevent reigniting of the remaining material. Although all fires have been extingusihed at this time, steam and smoke may still be visible from the area and the possibility for reigniting still exists.

La Porte, TX (March 19, 2019) – The following statement is being issued from the Intercontinental Terminals Co. LLC in La Porte, TX, 1943 Independence Parkway South at 10 a.m.

Fire intensified overnight on Monday due to a temporary loss of water pressure and water resources between the hours of 4:00PM and 10:00PM. The loss of water pressure was due to the malfunction of two fireboat pumps that were providing water to firefighters operating on the scene. Water pressure and water resources have been restored and emergency responders continue working on suppressing the fire on tanks 80-2, 80-3, 80-5, 80-6, 80-8 and 80-11. Tanks 80-9 and 80-12 were empty and have collapsed. Earlier this morning, tanks 80-14 and 80-15, both containing pyrolysis gasoline, are confirmed to be on fire. Emergency responders continue to work with foam and water to control and contain the fire. Additional resources, including specialty third-party firefighting teams, have arrived on site. Regarding air quality, all detections recorded by CTEH were below levels that would represent a public health concern. Individuals with health concerns should contact their health care professionals.

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La Porte, TX (March 19, 2019) – The following statement is being issued from the Intercontinental Terminals Co. LLC in La Porte, TX, 1943 Independence Parkway South at 2:20 a.m.

The fire at ITC intensified due to a temporary reduction of water pressure; however, the water pressure has been restored and responders have been able to fully resume their efforts to fight the fire.

Due to the fire’s intensification during the night, two additional tanks have become involved bringing the number of tanks involved in the fire to eight, which includes two empty tanks.

Additional response resources have been contracted to assist with the effort to put additional water and foam on the fire. They are expected to be operational by 8 a.m. this morning.

Air monitoring continues and as of this update readings are currently well below hazardous levels.

There are no injuries reported at this time.

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The fire at Intercontinental Terminals Co. LCC in LaPorte, TX has spread to one additional tank adjacent to the tanks already involved in the fire, bringing the total of involved tanks burning Monday to eight.

The chemical in the newly involved tank is toluene, used in production of nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner.

The Deer Park Office of Emergency Management has announced the decision to lift a previously issued shelter-in-place order and to re-open State Highway 225 with the public. Portions of Independence Parkway will remain closed until further notice. The City has just received notification that all Deer Park Independent School District campuses will be open.

A fire was first reported at ITC Deer Park at about 10:22 a.m. Sunday.

The chemicals in the tanks previously involved are naphtha and xylene, both components in gasoline, in gas blend stocks used in the production of finished gasoline, and base oil used for machine lubrication.

Emergency responders continue to work on controlling the fire using foam and are working to prevent the fire from spreading further. Although the risk of explosion is minimal, we continue to take precautions to further reduce this possibility.

Air monitoring continues and as of this update low levels of particulate matter have been detected. A single volatile organic compound detection has been found six miles southwest of the facility. These readings are currently well below hazardous levels.

All personnel are accounted for and there have been no injuries reported as a result of this incident.

ITC is coordinating its response with representatives of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard, Harris County and other federal, state and local agencies.

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