Chemical used to fight fire may have permanent consequences

Since the ITC facility in Deer Park caught on fire, most of the focus has been on the toxic chemicals in the air and polluting nearby waterways, but a new chemical worry may have longer term implications.

In the aftermath of the chemical burn, environmentalists are concerned that the cure could be more damaging than the fire itself. 

That's because emergency responders deployed more than 130,000 gallons of firefighting foam -  material containing Polyfluoroalkyl - a substance considered extremely hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"It's very, very toxic stuff, worse than the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Dioxin," said Bryan Parras of the Sierra Club.

In Deer Park, the Polyfluoroalkyl containing foam, commonly known as PFAS, escaped into an adjacent bayou after a containment barrier at the ITC facility failed.

That unintended release means an undetermined amount of highly toxic material, that's completely water soluble, could reach Galveston Bay.

"It lasts forever. It's known as the forever chemical," said Parras.

According to the EPA, PFAS are "very persistent in the environment and in the human body - meaning they don't break down and they can accumulate over time."

Cancer, hormonal disruption and damage to the immune system are the suspected dangers to those exposed.

The Galveston Bay Foundation and the EPA are currently testing water for PFAS contamination - results the Harris County Attorney's Office will closely monitor at it pursues punitive litigation.

"Anything that remains persistent in the environment and doesn't biodegrade is a concern," said Sarah Utley with the Harris County Attorney's environmental division.

It is a "man-made" threat Brian Parras fears may well haunt generations to come.

"The fire may be out, but the catastrophe is just beginning," said Parras.

Utley tells Fox 26 no one yet knows how much of the firefighting foam actually reached the water.