Explosion at PRSI plant in Pasadena

- Pasadena Refining System Incorporated is investigating an explosion that was reported early on Saturday morning. The petroleum facility has been hammered in the past from environmental and public health advocates and now they're speaking out against the facility again.

Air Alliance Houston said neighborhoods in Pasadena have every right to be upset because they said the company is poorly managed.

"We think this facility should be held accountable for mismanagement and misdeeds," said Adrian Shelley, with Air Alliance Houston.

Flames and heavy smoke were seen from miles away after an explosion jolted the Pasadena community on Saturday morning. Residents in the area want answers that they say the refinery is simply not giving them.

"Is it hazardous?," asked Florence Frui, a resident in the area. "Is it going to affect my breathing now and my health later?" Frui was not the only resident expressing concern.

FOX 26 News spoke with several people in the area who all had similar concerns about the plant's environmental impact.

"I mean it's really concerning," said resident Josh Grant. "I think they should have a way to communicate with residents in the area."

PRSI said the explosion was a result of a compressor malfunction, but the plant had little to offer the community when it came to the details of what chemicals were released as a result.

"We'll be doing an instant investigation to determine the details of what happened as soon as it is safe for us to be at the equipment,"  said PRSI spokesman Mark Burlinger.

But this is not the first time Burlinger has had to defend the plant's operations. Air Alliance Houston tells FOX 26 that the plant is poorly managed, letting its federal air permit lapse, which could be affecting the health of the over twenty-thousand households that surround it.

"It's poorly run," said Shelley. "We think it's disproportionately responsible for pollution in the neighborhood of Pasadena and we're concerned about health impacts just from day-to-day operations. 

One worker was injured in the explosion. Burlinger said the employee had burns on his hands but wasn't sure of the severity of the injuries altogether. In his short news conference, he added that the plant contained the fire quickly and no one should be concerned.

"Air monitoring has been conducted by the Pasadena refinery and the Harris county pollution control with no indication of any offsite impact," said Burlinger.

Air Alliance said Saturday's incident should be the last and want the facility to be monitored more vigorously.

"We think that if there was more attention paid to the facility then accidents like this wouldn't happen and the people working there would be safer."

Pasadena Refining System, Inc. (PRSI) is a refiner and marketer of petroleum products, including petrochemical feedstock's with a crude oil capacity of just over 100,000 barrels per day. It is owned by Brazilian state-run oil company Petrobras.

Photo submissions from: Craig Langston, Corina Garcia and Elizabeth Avitua-Tigner

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