Everybody knew this was coming, sooner or later. Perhaps building vital chemical infrastructure on a flood plain wasn’t the best example of city planning that ever came down the bayou. From The Washington Post:
The acknowledgment, in a regulatory filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, follows repeated complaints on Twitter of an “unbearable” chemical smell over parts of Houston. However, it was not immediately clear what caused the smell. The company said in the filings that a floating roof covering a tank at ExxonMobil’s Baytown oil refinery sank in heavy rains, dipping below the surface of oil or other material stored there and causing unusually high emissions, especially of volatile organic compounds, a category of regulated chemicals.
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It is impossible to calculate at this point how long it’s going to take the Houston area to become even minimally habitable again, let alone how long it’s going to be completely safe to live in and around the city. Just handling the eventual and general mold infestation is likely to take years. Put the local chemical and energy industries on top of that, and you’ve got a nightmarish scenario for residents, and for whatever’s left of the EPA after this administration gets through with it.
At the company’s Beaumont petrochemical refinery, Harvey damaged a sulfur thermal oxidizer, a piece of equipment that captures and burns sulfur dioxide. As a result, the plant released 1,312.84 pounds of sulfur dioxide, well in excess of the amounts allowed by the company’s permits. “The unit was stabilized. No impact to the community has been reported,” the company said in its filing. “Actions were taken to minimize emissions and to restore the refinery to normal operations.” A variety of other chemicals was emitted during the shutdown of the plants. “Most of the unauthorized emissions come from the process of shutting down, and then starting up, the various units of the plant, when pollution control devices can’t be operated properly and there’s lots of flaring,” said Luke Metzger, director of the group Environment Texas.
Damn. The bills are going to be coming due on this one for decades.