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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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(41)
  • Michael
    08/30/2017
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    the administration should prioritize fully staffing the EPA in the Texas district, in anticipation of clean-up efforts. Congress should investigate disaster preparedness measures at plants and refineries, expanding regulations as necessary to protect against future disasters. Congress should not cut funding to the EPA in the upcoming budget negotiations!

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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    08/30/2017
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    All necessary cleanups shall be paid by the corporations that were affected. Tax Payers should not have to pay one dime. Start representing the People, for the people, by the people. All illnesses, including life-long illness and illness or birth defects to unborn children, shall also be addressed by the Corporations. No innocent victim or innocent tax payers should have to pay for a Corporations unethical and immoral practices and failure to address issues appropriately.

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  • Ticktock
    08/30/2017
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    Texas the home of the Tea Party and extreme right thinking people. I want to say "let them stew in their own juices", but as a country regardless of Texas's short sightedness I can't. They need help and the country should provide SOME OF IT. But not all. I've worked in the chemical industry and it can be very nasty. This is not the first time that industry has abused the public. Remember Erin Brockovich, the movie? The information displayed in that movie occurs all across the US. I saw it done. The owners, chemists, general workers and probably the stock holder know the environmental risks and measure them against the amount of profits that safety will cost them personally. They care little for the public living near the plants. That's why the plant is always in the poorer part of town. Those people cost less, less educated and have little representation in local governments. "Yes" to all of the questions except the EPA should be fully funded and staffed. There should be an investigation if for other reason than to be better prepared next time. The chemical companies should bare the brunt of the cost of any clean up. They have benefited from the profits from these plants. EPA should not be a bargaining chip. It play a vital role protecting society from catastrophes just like this one.

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  • Dara
    08/30/2017
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    Let's see. Isn't Texas one of those southern states that doesn't believe in any regulations, climate change is a hoax, oil is king, and the list goes on. These states always want help for disasters but don't want to help pay for them. If I was hard-hearted I'd say fix it yourself but I'm not. We need to save our environment so we need to help out. However, the cheap senators, state government officials, and people of Texas need to start regulating these businesses that are environmentally hazardous and do their part to make the business financially accountable.

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  • Katharine
    08/30/2017
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    The EPA should be fully staffed and it should be a priority. Also Congress should look into the regulations of such plants that can cause disaster with pollutants

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  • Kodiwodi
    08/30/2017
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    Exxon has been telling the EPA since the shutdown on Friday they would need to release chemical gasses but wouldn't say what they were. I think it's rather sad when the tail is wagging the dog's head.

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  • Gail
    08/30/2017
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    As this government is reducing the efficacy and scope of the EPA, this storm makes it abundantly clear that the EPA is needed. Our government has known since the last big hurricane damaged New Orleans, that the bridges and levees in this area are in bad need of rebuilding. They have known about the threat to chemical leaks should another flood occur. For too long our government has looked the other way while America's infrastructure grows old and weak. There are engineers and professors studying these issues, readying solutions. You reap what you sow. How many times will this have to happen before our government becomes proactive by requiring regional planning for any new building in low lying arrears; rezoning in areas that are totally vulnerable to flooding; take the climate change issue seriously and recognize that one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. They always have billions for defense and the military, but cut and slash when it comes to rebuilding America. Trump's promises were rhetoric. He would waste trillions on a wall which would be better spent on infrastructure. This country is rich with ingenuity. We have smart people with creative ideas for addressing our problems. We have the majority of our citizens crying out for these problems to be solved. Yet we have numerous members of this administration who would rather fight problems that don't exist and ignore the problems that do. The problem with being a reality tv star is that you think that scripted bs is real life and you keep on trying to write a script that makes you the hero, all the while real life opportunities to serve the greater good are right in front of you, but, alas, the ego is blind. I said at the beginning that if Trump were elected many people would suffer, with the ramifications of his racism and ignorance affecting people for some fifty years. Will crisis, loss and harm to America and her citizens wake up the people around him? All this rush to deregulate will bite us in the ass just like deregulating of the banks did. How many times do we have to learn the same lesson before greed and self interest yields to wisdom, foresight and the common good?

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  • James
    08/30/2017
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    Excuse me but the EPA is not now or ever has been in the clean up business! As an enviornmental that has been in the field going on eight years! I've worked both oil and chemical spills! Clean up is done by private contractors and there are plenty of them especially in Texas! Veolia, Clean Harbors, Waste Management! And that list goes on and on! First of all the have to be able to get to the spill site to respond to it. That means that nothing can be done until water recedes! Every community around America has chemical facilities and petro storage facilities that are closely monitored by Federal, State and local government of a regular basis! However when you get a hurricane as the gulf coast has had them forever! Things happen! There are a lot more people living along our coast lines now, more so than say 40-70 years ago! The Federal, state and local governments are doing everything that they can possibly do at this point in conjunction with our Armed Forces and Fire and Police! Spills happen all the time all around the country but we just don't hear about them as most are small and easily tended to! So you won't hear about them in the news! Chemical tanks, and many are avid tanks that use those acids to produce a lot of items that we use on a daily basis. Well most acid when added to water becomes neutral! Ammonia tanks are mostly used for refrigeration or it could be the production of fertilizers! Petroleum products will dissipate over time as it comes from the ground and is nothing more than ancient rotted vegetation! Anyway, quit pointing fingers at the government and big corporations as we all depend on both! And NO! Global warming did not cause this! There have been big bad hurricanes in the golf since way before Europeans arrived here. There was nobody to accurately record anything! Don't think the American Indians did any of that!

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  • Gordon
    08/30/2017
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    The administration should prioritize fully staffing and funding the EPA, with qualified scientists, immediately -- in Texas and the rest of the country. Start by replacing Pruitt.

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  • Azrael
    08/30/2017
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    Let's cut some more scientist and health care and we won't have to worry about the big corporations leaking crap into the environment You allowed this mess You allowed the exodus of all the intelligent people in the government Can people sue congress?

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  • Pam
    08/31/2017
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    Hurricanes strike Houston and it was always just a matter of time before a storm such as Harvey made landfall there. The EPA is instrumental as events of this nature occur. Fully staff the EPA, bring back the scientists and analysts that have been removed, and replace Scott Pruitt.

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  • Kimberly
    08/31/2017
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    This is why we need the EPA FULLY FUNDED AND GIVE POWERS TO REGULATE PROPERLY! The fact that Trump and the GOP actually think corporate America can do the right thing by the environment and us is ridiculous and been proven wrong far to many times. The GOP would kill and destroy us all if they could profit off of us for their Rich donors. Oh, wait they already do that now!

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  • BeStrong
    08/30/2017
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    While this storm's volume and relentless ferocity could not have been predicted we must have a strong ethical honest and fully scientifically staffed EPA. The EPA is instrumental as events of this nature occur. Fully staff the EPA, bring back the scientists and analysts that have been removed and replace Scott Pruitt.

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  • KansasTamale
    08/31/2017
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    The Texas Republicans have all but done away with any regulations to free corporations from spending money to protect the people & environment of Texas. This is what they want to do & Trump has already started to do to the entire US. The flooding & deaths & destruction are all on the Republicans' backs. WE HAVE TO STOP WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COUNTRY.

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  • Koko
    08/31/2017
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    Have the chemical pants clean up their own mess

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  • operaman
    08/30/2017
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    I would like to know what chemicals or pollutants.

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  • Loretta
    08/30/2017
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    So now don't we wish we didn't mess with the EPA? Put all that funding back and don't mess with things that are not broken! Just because another administration did it doesn't make it wrong!

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  • Quiara
    08/31/2017
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    1 million lbs of toxins released in houston due to centuries of capitalism, corporate greed & our political leaders standing by corporations that create toxic, unsafe products & store them/ monitor them in unsatisfactory & unsafe conditions, this is just another obvious lapse in morality & accountability from corporations & politicians who should be regulating them & their practices. This will effect the health, life, death, & economy of the masses while those who created these issues will go unpunished because they own wealth. Do something differently - stand up for the humans not the corporations.

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  • Tracy
    08/31/2017
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    This administration should prioritize fully staffing the EPA in the Texas district, in anticipation of clean-up efforts. Congress should investigate disaster preparedness measures at plants and refineries in an effort to expand regulations as necessary to protect against future disasters. Congress should not cut funding to the EPA. I do remember when Super Storm Sandy caused so much devastation and certain Texas officials didn't want to help fund recovery....good thing that Americans don't feel that way about Texas... The environment belongs to everyone and every living being. We must help in every way possible.

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  • Deirdre
    08/30/2017
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    Is anyone going to do anything about this? Oh wait that's right we no longer have people in office who believe in fixing these types of issues. We need help so what are you going to do?

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