Joint Release: Unified command working to assess water quality near ITC site

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Teams and contractors from City of Deer Park, Harris County, TCEQ, EPA, and the U.S. Coast Guard are working together. All to test impacts to Tucker Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel.

That’s surrounding Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park. All of which most noteworthy recently dealt with several large fires in its chemical storage tanks.

So City of Deer Park reports that run-off of foam and chemicals resulting from the fire response do not pose a threat to quality of the city’s drinking water. Yet drinking water is provided to the city by the Coastal Water Authority. All of which draws from the Trinity River. More importantly, water stored in a reservoir located northeast of the Lynchburg Ferry. From there, it travels through a closed pipe system to Deer Park customers. As well, water in the municipal water system does not come into contact with the water affected by the fire response. Furthermore, the public water system is designed to treat debris that has fallen, such as ash, that may have met untreated water stored at the drinking water plant.

Treated water contained within a pressurized distribution system. Laboratory testing of City of Deer Park’s water revealed no evidence of benzene. The only volatile organic compounds detected were the total trihalomethanes at 14 micrograms per liter, which is well below the largest allowed 80 micrograms per liter, which is a disinfectant byproduct.

The area north of Texas 225 drains toward the Houston Ship Channel, which is not used by any public water system in the Houston area as a source for drinking water. Deer Park residents who use wells north of Texas 225 should have their water tested before using.

Teams are looking out for and working to contain any chemicals that may be coming from the site, which include the industrial chemicals stored there and firefighting foam used to fight the fire and suppress vapors.

The Coast Guard directed placing close to 3,000 feet of containment and sorbent boom at strategic locations. Located along the facility’s drainage outfall; that’s including Tucker and Buffalo bayous, and the Houston Ship Channel. To contain discharge caused by the overflow of firefighting water and foam from the facility’s containment area. Plus an exclusionary boom placing around the Battleship Texas and the entrance to Santa Ana Bayou. All as a precautionary measure to prevent impact to these sensitive areas. If at any time, air or water sampling indicates a safety risk to operations on the Houston Ship Channel, the Captain of the Port will take immediate action to stop operations in the affected area. Employees working at facilities along the Houston Ship Channel should follow safety instructions issued by their local and county officials.

In conclusion, TCEQ began sampling water on Tuesday. Sampling from Tucker Bayou to the Houston Ship Channel. As well as at drainage outfalls next to the facility. Collected samples were first submitted by TCEQ’s contractor to a certified water laboratory early Wednesday; however, results for certain compounds can take 24 hours, while others can take as long as 72 hours, to be processed and finalized. EPA began collecting water samples in Tucker Bayou on March 20, and in Buffalo Bayou on March 21.

Finally and to see city of Deer Park, Harris County, TCEQ’s ITC Fire Incident webpage, and EPA for updates about this response.