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article imageHarvey has unleashed another disaster with large chemical spills

By Karen Graham     Aug 31, 2017 in Environment
The two explosions at the chemical plant in Crosby, Texas are just a very small part of the health and environmental disaster facing victims of the flooding in the state.
Even though Harvey has caused historic and unprecedented flooding in Texas and Louisiana, there are other looming disasters on the horizon from the leakage of chemicals that could explode or harm people.
And with Hurricane Harvey coming onshore as a Category 4 storm, refineries and chemical plants did shut down in preparation for the storm. But still, there have been damages inflicted on these facilities, and people need to be fully aware of the risks and dangers from the chemicals released into the flood waters and environment. Many of them are toxic and can make you sick.
The Arkema Chemical Plant
Of course, the Crosby, Texas plant, one of six owned by Arkema in Texas, has already been in the news after the plant had two explosions Thursday morning. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a statement today that the "concentrations of any toxic materials released in a chemical fire at Arkema SA's flooded plant 25 miles northeast of Houston appear too small for concern for now," according to Reuters today.
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The Verge
ExxonMobil Refineries
At ExxonMobil's Baytown oil refinery, heavy rains caused a roof on a tank to fall in, causing the release of hazardous pollutants, according to The Washington Post. And at a second petrochemical plant in Beaumont, Texas, a piece of equipment that captures and burns sulfur dioxide (SO2) was damaged.
This event resulted in the release of 1,300 pounds of sulfur dioxide and this chemical can cause respiratory problems in humans. Children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma are particularly sensitive to effects of SO2. Gaseous sulfur dioxide can also harm trees and plants by damaging foliage and decreasing growth.
This chart shows excess air pollutant emissions from the Chevron Phillips Chemical plant in Sweeny  ...
This chart shows excess air pollutant emissions from the Chevron Phillips Chemical plant in Sweeny, Texas, following Hurricane Harvey.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Chevron Phillips Chemical Plant in Sweeney
When the plant in Sweeney was shut down during Harvey, "100,000 pounds of carbon monoxide, 22,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide, 32,000 pounds of ethylene, 11,000 pounds of propane, and a couple thousand pounds of 1,3-butadiene, benzene, and butane," according to The New Republic. All the releases were far more than what is legally allowed.
Chevron reported a similar release of toxins at its plant in Cedar Bayou. 28,000 pounds of benzene, a known carcinogen. and 56,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide gases, which react to form smog and acid rain, were released when the plant was shut down. Additionally, a "miscellaneous" source which was not allowed to release anything at all, released 40,000 pounds of a mix of various chemicals.
Toxic Superfund Sites
In Harris County Texas, where Houston is located, there are about 12 federal Superfund sites.
What's a superfund site? They are contaminated areas the federal government is trying to clean up. Some of the sites contain oil sludge and pollutants like perchloroethylene and chlorinated hydrocarbons that are dangerous to humans and the flood waters could carry this toxic mix into wells and the water supply.
People have already taken to social media, reporting stinking smells, headaches and sore throats.
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Raquel de Anda‏
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