Mayor, city say investigation into warehouse fire ongoing

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The business that burned in Spring Branch in that 4-alarm fire last week was not properly registered to store hazardous materials. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner says the company was not declared as a hazardous material facility.  So just what chemicals were inside the company burning in that massive warehouse fire last Thursday? 

“If they had chemicals that reached a certain threshold they were obligated to self-report to TCEQ.  We do know they did not self-report at all,” explains Mayor Turner who also says the city's investigation is on-going but he says this is clear.

”This particular business did not have a hazardous certificate of occupancy and it was not registered with the city as a hazardous enterprise,” adds Mayor Turner.

“If this is happening in Spring Branch where else is it happening?” asks Houston City Council Member Brenda Stardig. 

Stardig says if fast food customers can easily get a calorie count of their lunch, residents certainly have a right to know what potential dangers are in their neighborhood. 

“Everybody's demanding to know what the calories are in a burger but nobody's demanding to know what dangerous chemicals may be stored next door to their house,” explains Stardig. 

The city along with the Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are working to figure out what chemicals burned.  According to the EPA the company is confirmed to have had pesticides and fuel additives. 

“We've collected 100,000 gallons of material from the creek.  Primarily oily material that was floating on top of the creek,” says Chris Ruhl with EPA.

”The testing is not complete yet but the early results indicate that there are no contaminants in the smoke or in the water at levels high enough that indicate there is an acute problem,” explains Houston Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. David Persse.
Dr. Persse points out no smoke is safe but he says the smoke from this fire doesn't appear to be any more dangerous than any other.
More air and water quality testing results are expected by the end of the week.  This business hasn't been inspected since 2008.  Mayor Turner says one reason it hasn't been is because of lack of resources.

The Mayor says it's too early to know if the company has broken any laws or violated any ordinances.