Members of agencies responsible for responding to the Intercontinental Terminals Company facility fire spent Friday testifying before state lawmakers in Austin. The hearing was called by the Texas House Committees on Environmental Regulation and Homeland Security & Public Safety.
In the hearing nearly three weeks after the fire started, state representatives from districts in eastern Harris County questioned the agencies about what happened at ITC and how to avoid it in the future.
ITC officials say that as of Friday, two tanks on the burned farm still need to be secured, including a naphtha tank and a xylene tank that was being pumped on Friday. They also say there is still an ongoing risk of benzene emissions at the site.
Meanwhile, the Houston Ship Channel remains polluted from Beltway 8 eastward to Peggy Lake and north to Interstate 10. The ship channel became polluted with runoff from the tank farm after the dike wall broke two weeks ago while crews were trying to secure the oil and gas components that were spilling out of the burned tanks.
The U.S. Coast Guard said on Friday that it had secured 91,957 barrels of polluted water from the ship channel since the dike wall broke. Skimming boats continue to collect the pollution daily, and the ship channel remains only partially open to traffic.
Harris County Office of Emergency Management and the mayor of Deer Park were among those testifying before the legislative committees.
ITC’s unified command said on Friday that Texas Parks and Wildlife has confirmed that pollutants from the ITC fire were the cause of death for five opossums, eight birds, four turtles, and thirteen fish in the area of Tucker Bayou.
As for air quality, Harris County Public Health says there continues to be an overall low health risk.
The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office has yet to access the fire scene to determine a cause. With chemicals still being pumped from the burned area, investigators say it’s still not safe to access.