Local concerns after Texas chemical plant explosion

There were chemical plant explosions today outside of Houston, a result of flooding caused by the storms. Officials are checking the smoke from the site for harmful contaminants.
Authorities have evacuated an area near the plant and urged residents downwind to stay indoors with windows closed to avoid inhaling smoke. News 25’s Gina Tomlinson takes a look at what would happen to a Coast plant faced with a similar situation.
Over a dozen deputies were rushed to the hospital Thursday after explosions at a chemical plant. The deputies complained of respiratory irritation. The dangerous blasts were a result of the flooding caused by the storms in Texas. It raises the question: could this happen on our Coast? Howard Page with the Gulf Restoration Network said, “This could happen here like in Pascagoula. You could release some really bad chemicals that could have really bad effects on people including hospitalizing people or even having lethal consequences.”
In Texas, floods took out electricity at the plants, causing unrefrigerated chemicals to burn and explode. At the Chevron Oil Refinery in Pascagoula, chemicals sit in big tanks. “Because they’re all located so close together, when you have a disaster that affects them all at once, you really get this mix of potential hazards,” said Page.
Chevron officials tell News 25 they’re very prepared for the possibility of a natural disaster. Chevron Refinery Communication Specialist Allison Cook said, “We’ve got a 50 plus year history of operating safely and responsibly in this community. We’ll continue to follow all of the storm preparedness procedures we have in place.”
Chevron built a floodgate in the 1990s after Hurricane George. It extends all the way around the refinery. Its purpose is to keep the dangers inside from getting out. “It’s almost 20 feet at its highest point which is an important protective layer against those sorts of flood concerns,” said Cook.
Environmentalists hopes Chevron’s emergency plans are enough to protect the community if a storm like Harvey comes to the Coast. “You want to have trust that the company is going to do the right thing, you need to have government oversight and pretty strict government oversight and enforcement that prioritizes public health and public safety,” said Page.

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