It’s been 3 years since the ITC fire in Deer Park, TX

2022-03-17T14:04:42-05:00News|

Three years ago, the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) in Deer Park, TX had a weeks-long series of catastrophic storage tank fires and toxic air emissions. 

How do we avoid this?

  • Advocate with us at Air Alliance Houston
    • At the end of last year, we called on you to submit comments to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) when ITC’s Pasadena facility reapplied for their 5-year operating permit. AAH lent our support to community voices who argued that the ITC Deer Park facility disaster (which is still under investigation and just up the road) demonstrated the consequences of an opaque environmental decision-making process that excludes the engagement and participation of affected communities. We notified the public of the opportunity to voice their concerns through our newsletter and social media.
    • Send our newsletter registration to someone today who needs information about our fight for clean air and how they can help oppose problematic permit applications like ITC: Tinyurl.com/SubscribeAAH and make sure to follow us on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn @AirAllianceHOU) for the latest updates on our work.
  • Get involved in the ‘Sunset Review ‘of the TCEQ
    • The TCEQ is in the early stages of their Sunset Review – a state-mandated process that each agency undergoes every 12 years with the stated goal of making them more efficient and effective. MOST IMPORTANTLY, this year the public will be allowed to comment on the agencies under review! We need an environmental protection agency in Texas that holds polluters accountable for disasters like the ITC Deer Park fire, and we need the community to participate in the Sunset review process so that the performance and efficacy of our state agencies, including TCEQ, are held to a standard that places community equity concerns front and center! 

Ready to Act?

  • Help our partners at the Coalition for the Environment, Equity and Resilience (CEER) help you raise your voice in this process. Take their survey: bit.ly/RRCCEER
  • MARK YOUR CALENDAR:
    • Join your neighbors and community members from other counties  at the People’s Hearing for the TCEQ Sunset Review on Saturday, April 30 at 11 AM (details to follow)
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    • June 22 the Sunset Commission will meet to hear public testimony on 4 Texas agencies under review including the TCEQ (details to follow)
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  • Comment on the EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule proposal: On March 1, we joined other members of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters in urging the EPA to adopt the recommendations of a new federal watchdog report calling for a stronger RMP rule. The report said the RMP rule is not sufficient for preventing disasters due to natural hazards and climate change. We also think the rule should better protect people from the most extraordinary hazards (for an example, check out hydrofluoric acid used by facilities right here in Houston). The EPA plans to issue a new RMP rule for public comment by September this year.
    • The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish regulations and guidance for chemical accident prevention at hazardous facilities. These are contained in the EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule used by more than 12,000 industrial facilities in the United States, including chemical manufacturers, oil refineries, water treatment plants, and more, as the standard for preventing facility disasters.
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A personal story about the ITC Disaster

Do you remember the Plume? It came over our head from the East side of Houston on a Sunday morning. This Plume came from the Intercontinental Terminals Company (better known as ITC) in Deer Park when several of their storage tanks caught on fire. Three years ago this week, this disaster, originating in Eastern Harris County communities, overcame the whole Houston metropolitan area.

My name is Cassandra. I am the Communications Associate at Air Alliance Houston. Until recently, I lived in Pasadena with my parents in a neighborhood at the corner of Beltway 8 and State Highway 225 called Deepwater. This house was owned by my paternal grandparents, and I called it home for 18 years. 

I remember the morning this explosion happened. My mother and I had gone to a religious service at 8 am and returned home at about 9:30 am. Shortly after, when we had changed from our Sunday best into our lounge clothes, let our hair loose from our tight ponytails and buns, we went to have coffee together on our front porch.

There, just blanketing the sky was a black sheet of thick black smoke.

I would like to emphasize I have grown up in the Deepwater area. I grew up with the Ship Channel staple – Wally Wise Guy, a turtle mascot who taught us how to ‘shell-ter’ in place when a chemical disaster happens. At 5 years old, after my half-day at Pre-K, I would tell my parents about the AM radio channel where we could listen to updates on chemical disasters if and when they happened. 

When I saw the plume, I simply looked at my mom and said “Wow. Should we call dad?” My dad is a Board Operator at a plastics producing facility further down SH 225. She responded, “he will call us.”

To the disappointment of Wally Wise, we did not turn off the A/C, we did not go inside.  In fact, my mother and I finished our coffee on the porch and then meandered inside to watch a movie.

Within hours my dad called and said he was ‘fine, the smoke should go away soon, it’s a facility down the street.’

The nonchalance of this chemical disaster story is familiar to those who grew up or currently live in communities like mine. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can’t accept the normalization of these threats to the health and safety of our communities.

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