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Over 1 Million Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Released in Houston

by Countable | 8.30.17

What’s the story?

Hurricane Harvey has moved more than a dozen oil refineries off-line in Houston. It has also damaged chemical plants, causing as many pollutants as would normally be released in three months to be released in a matter of days, reports Politico.

Why does it matter?

Houston is home to hundreds of chemical plants. As a result, pollution concerns have existed there for a long time. The Houston Chronicle, in concert with researchers at Texas A&M University, produced a 8-part series showing the potential harm to the public posed by hazardous materials at local businesses.

Now, those ongoing concerns have been compounded by the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Harvey. Chevron, Pasadena Terminal (Kinder Morgan), and Exxon have all filed reports with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in recent days, documenting damage and massive chemical releases into the environment. Residents have reported unusually strong chemical smells wafting through the air via Twitter.

The Environmental Defense Fund reports that over 1 million pounds of harmful pollution have been released into the air. Included in the list of chemicals involved are carcinogenic benzene and nitrogen oxide.

Industry and government authorities are planning to address the issue, but are hampered by the continuing storm. Air quality in Houston is monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is facing potentially unprecedented cuts in the upcoming annual budget negotiation process and has yet to see a director appointed to the Texas district by President Trump.

Since the chemicals have also been released directly into flood waters, the environmental effects may also extend beyond air quality to widespread soil and water contamination.

Environmental clean-up is likely to take years and cost billions, if the multi-year recovery and clean-up process following Hurricane Katrina is any indication.

What can you do?

Should the administration prioritize fully staffing the EPA in the Texas district, in anticipation of clean-up efforts? Should Congress investigate disaster preparedness measures at plants and refineries, expanding regulations as necessary to protect against future disasters? Should Congress cut funding to the EPA in the upcoming budget negotiations?

Tell us in the comments what you think and then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Houston Ship Channel via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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