DEER PARK, Texas (FOX 26) - The cities of Deer Park and Galena Park have lifted shelter-in-place orders.
“According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Harris County HAZMAT teams and a private contractor on-site at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) Deer Park site, air quality readings are improving, and over the last few hours, they have been significantly reduced,” Emergency Services Director Robert Hemminger says. “This information, combined with the assurance of Harris County Public Health, allows us to meet our internal criteria necessary to lift our Shelter-in-Place.”
State Highway 225 will be reopened from Beltway 8 to Highway 146.
The City of Deer Park says air monitoring will continue.
Residents are advised to stay inside, bring pets in close all doors and windows, turn off air conditioning or heating systems and close the fire place damper.
According to Judge Hidalgo, benzene vapors were detected near the site of the fire that was extinguished on Wednesday. She said they believe product escaped from the foam blanket that was in place.
Judge Hidalgo says there isn’t much wind right now, which is keeping everything in the area.
"Given our very conservative air quailty standard we're at a level where out of an abundance of caution there should be a shelter in place which the City of Deer Park has announced," Judge Hidalgo says. "It's important to remember outside of that immediate area, we are not seeing any elevated levels right now."
Judge Hidalgo says response crews are currently focused on maintaining the foam blanket.
She says Harris County Polution Control, the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team which are experts in chemical surveillance, Harris County HAZMAT team, and City of Houston HAZMAT team are assisting.
"They've all set two perimeters around the incident site to identify and analyze air quality readings in real time," Judge Hidalgo says.
According to a Thursday morning update from ITC, the fire remains extinguished but responders onsite reported increased levels of benzene that are "below those that represent an immediate risk". ITC says they notified surrounding municipalities.
ITC says responders are working to reduce the cause that may be responsible for the elevated readings, and they continue to monitor air quality.
The company says they are coordinating response with the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Harris County, and other federal state and local agencies.
"The safety and well-being of the surrounding communities, our employees, our first responders, and the environment contiue to be our top priorities and we remain committed to providing information as it develops," ITC said in the Thursday morning update.
The "Ask My Nurse" hotline has been established by Harris County Public Health for those concerned about symptoms they may be experiencing. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week. The number is (713)634-1110. Nurses will refer you to an emergency center or urgent care if neccessary.
The City of Deer Park shared these instructions for residents sheltering in place:
Full Shelter-in-Place instructions
Per the City’s website, http://www.deerparktx.gov/1722/Shelter-In-Place, instructions for Shelter-in-Place are as follows:
1. Go Inside Immediately: Seek the nearest enclosed structure, whether it's a house, business, garage or vehicle. If you know of any unattended child in your neighborhood, call them and tell them to remain indoors. Keep any pets inside also. Gather emergency supplies like a portable radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
2. Close all doors, windows and other sources of outside air. Turn off air conditioning or heating systems and close the fireplace damper to keep chemical vapors from entering. Ceiling fans or rotary fans inside the building can be safely used to keep cool.
Cover any gaps, holes or cracks with wet towels or sheets to prevent vapors from entering your home.
If you have trouble breathing, contact 9-1-1.