Air Alliance Houston’s Juan Flores recently appeared on All Things Considered, NPR’s evening news program, to talk about how post-Hurricane Harvey pollution affected residents in the Galena Park community where he and his family live.
“If I smell something out here, it’s bad,” he told NPR, “and I can tell you during Harvey, it smelled real bad.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shut down the Houston area’s air quality monitoring stations during the storm, leaving residents with limited information about the quality of the air they were breathing. While the EPA performed some sampling after the storm, the federal agency failed to provide timely information to residents and made statements unsupported by data about the potential impacts to human health.
Based on industry’s estimates to TCEQ, nearly 6 million pounds escaped into the Texas skies during and after Hurricane Harvey because of shutdowns, startups and damage to industrial facilities. The pollutants included benzene, a cancer-causing compound that is not safe at any level of exposure. The extra pollution also contributed to the Houston’s worst day for ozone, or smog, this year.
Air Alliance Houston urges the EPA and TCEQ to share as much information as they can about environmental sampling in real time – even if data is still under review for quality assurance – because the public should know about any pollution hazard. We also believe they should refrain from making statements about impacts to public health – or absence of impacts – unless there is data that fully supports them.
Click here to read the full article and to listen to the segment.