Houston-area environmental groups are taking matters into their own hands in the aftermath of the fire at the International Terminals Company Deer Park facility.
“We were very concerned with the lack of transparency that these agencies are providing and where they are testing and what they are testing for,” said Sarah Gossett with the Galveston Bay Foundation.
On Friday morning, the foundation partnered with Texas A&M University graduate students and the Environmental Defense Fund to collect water samples around the Houston Ship Channel. The samples will be tested for volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, like benzene.
"We will also be testing to better understand how much of the foam that was used to put out the fire might be making its way into the water, into the ship channel and, ultimately, into Galveston Bay,” added Gossett.
The test results will take a couple of days. But Gossett says it didn’t look as bad as they feared.
"When we drove past the site where a lot of that runoff has been reported, you could see sheen on top of the water in areas that were boomed off, but we really did not see to much on the surface that looked concerning,” recalled Gossett.
Juan Flores with Air Alliance Houston said the organization has already installed sixteen out of the 24 purple air monitors they just got in. The monitors work with WiFi so people can see the readings in real time.
The organization also just got its first benzene monitor.
Flores added that they are working with other agencies.
"I know there’s a lot of data out there and we’re all going to try to work together with all the data they got to try to come up with conclusions,” explained Flores. "There’s an estimate from our organization that the first day [the fire] started, there might have been nine million pounds of smoke just the first day.”
The Air Alliance Houston said that it is looking for schools, municipal buildings or even private residences to install these air monitors.