“…gasoline spilled near the Houston Ship Channel after two storage tanks owned by an Oklahoma pipeline company sustained damage from Hurricane Harvey.
The spill, totaling more than 460,000 gallons, is the largest reported since Harvey swamped the Houston…”
|Companies have reported that roughly two dozen storage tanks holding crude oil, gasoline and other fuels collapsed or otherwise failed during Harvey, spilling a combined 140,000 gallons of fuel, according to an Associated Press analysis of state and federal accident databases. Federal rules require companies to be prepared for spills, but don’t require them to take any specific measures to secure the massive fuel storage tanks at refineries and oil production sites that are prone to float and break during floods. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, file)
Here are some PennEnergy cut & paste items I found of interest abbreviated for ease of reading….”More than two dozen storage tanks holding crude oil, gasoline and other contaminants ruptured or otherwise failed … spilling at least 145,000 gallons (548,868 liters) of fuel and spewing toxic pollutants into the air,…
…tank failures follow years of warnings that the Houston area’s petrochemical industry was ill-prepared for a major storm, with about one-third of the 4,500 storage tanks along the Houston Ship Channel… susceptible to flooding…
…The tanks are prone to float and break during floods, and Harvey’s unprecedented rainfalls revealed a new vulnerability when the roofs of some storage tanks sank under the weight of so much water.
Federal and state rules require companies to be prepared for spills, but mandate no specific measures to secure storage tanks at refineries, chemical plants and oil production sites.
“Tampa Bay is one of the most vulnerable cities in the country” to hurricanes, said John Pardue, a Louisiana State University professor who has researched problems with storage tanks during storms.
“But there’s no requirement that says when you’re in a hurricane zone you’ve got to do things differently,” Pardue added. ….(RE:Hurricane Katrina that had)…ruptured storage tanks released several millions of gallons of oil including into residential areas…
One difference during Harvey was that prior to the storm, some refineries apparently were able to fill up their storage tanks to make them less buoyant …That wasn’t the case with about a dozen smaller storage tanks that experienced spills in Fayette County …
…problems among almost 400 large storage tanks in the Houston area that have “floating roofs” that go up or down depending on how much fuel is inside the containers. …Harvey caused 14 of those roofs to sink, in some instances allowing the chemicals inside them to escape…
There are no government rules dictating how tanks are designed….
At least two of the floating roof failures occurred in gasoline storage tanks at Shell Oil’s Deer Park refinery and another occurred at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery.
Pollution reports submitted by the companies to Texas regulators blamed the roof problems on Harvey’s excess rainfall. The reports said air pollutants including benzene, toluene and xylene were released into the atmosphere……Shell representative said …roof problems presented an “extremely rare” circumstance and …quickly responded by spraying the spilled fuel with foam to suppress any harmful vapors.
Exxon Mobil ….was able to lessen environmental damage from Harvey by shutting down equipment in advance. ….it’s uncertain how much spilled material flowed off-site from the storage yards, oil production areas and refineries.
(MAJOR TAKE AWAY YA’LL)Texas has rules governing protections for underground storage tanks during floods, but not for above-ground tanks…”
Skytruth/report a spill link here, https://skytruth.ushahidi.io/views/map
Here is a sample of the notification after it is reported, notice it has a hover function to see “REPORTED” spills/releases, check this one out here at link…
#Formosa released 1,328,850 lbs. of toxic emissions from startup after #Harvey
9/5/17 update: https://twitter.com/emorwee/status/905162716423352320
“Status of systems in areas affected by Harvey
WASHINGTON – Working together, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) continue to coordinate with local, state and federal officials to address the human health and environmental impacts of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, especially the water systems in the affected areas. TCEQ has 500 people and EPA 145 people assisting the response to this natural disaster. As of Sunday, Sept. 3, the following information is available:
Drinking Water: To date, about 2,000 drinking water systems potentially affected by Harvey have been contacted. Of those: 1,757 systems are fully operational, 188 have boil-water notices, and 37 are shut down. Both EPA and the TCEQ are contacting remaining systems to gather updated information of their status. EPA and the TCEQ are working closely with the Texas National Guard, including the 6th Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Corpus Christi), Arkansas National Guard, 61st Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Houston), and the Texas State Guard Engineering Group, and other local and state agencies to continuously monitor water systems. Assistance teams are in the field working directly with system operators to expedite getting systems back to operational status.
Waste Water and Sewage: Currently, 794 of approximately 1,219 wastewater treatment plants are fully operational in the affected counties. The agencies are aware that releases of wastewater from sanitary sewers are occurring, due to the historic flooding and are actively working to monitor facilities that have reported spills, conduct outreach and provide technical guidance to all other wastewater facilities in flood-impacted areas. EPA and TCEQ are working closely with the Texas National Guard, including the 6th Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Corpus Christi), Arkansas National Guard, 61st Civil Support Team (supporting TCEQ in Houston), and the Texas State Guard Engineering Group, and other local and state agencies to continuously monitor wastewater systems. Assistance teams will be deployed to work directly with system operators to expedite getting systems back to operational status.
Residential Wells: EPA is developing a plan for sampling residential wells and is coordinating with the TCEQ to establish several locations where residents can bring water samples from their wells to be tested. If a private well is flooded, the water should not be used from the well until the following three things have occurred:
1. Flood waters have receded from the well and the plumbing system;
2. The well has been disinfected as well as the plumbing;
3. and the well has been sampled and laboratory analysis report has confirmed that the disinfected water contains no bacteriological contaminants.
Guidance for private well owners can be found at: www.tceq.texas.gov/response/hurricanes.
Flood Water: Water quality sampling will be focused on industrial facilities and hazardous waste sites. Floodwaters contain many hazards, including bacteria and other contaminants. Precautions should be taken by anyone involved in cleanup activities or any others who may be exposed to flood waters. These precautions include heeding all warnings from local and state authorities regarding safety advisories. In addition to the drowning hazards of wading, swimming, or driving in swift floodwaters, these waters can carry large objects that are not always readily visible that can cause injuries to those in the water. Other potential hazards include downed power lines and possible injuries inflicted by animals displaced by the floodwaters.
Critical Water Infrastructure: The agencies are continuing to work closely with dams. The larger dams are full in many cases and may be releasing water; the structures are secure at this time. There are 340 high- and significant-hazard dams in the impacted areas, and TCEQ has been able to make contact with 200 of these dam owners. Of these 200, only five dams have been damaged or have failed. We have also been notified that three low-hazard dams have damage. TCEQ is continuing to contact dams to get status updates.
Additional EPA/TCEQ updates include:
• Superfund Sites: EPA and TCEQ continue to get updates about the status of specific sites from the parties responsible for ongoing cleanup of the sites. The most recent information can be found at www.tceq.texas.gov/news/releases/status-of-superfund-sites-affected-by-harvey.
• Air Quality Monitoring: One of the many preparations for Hurricane Harvey included EPA, TCEQ, and other monitoring entities temporarily shutting down several air monitoring stations from the greater Houston, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont areas. Since then, state and local authorities have been working to get the systems up and running again. As of Saturday, Sept. 2, more than 88 percent of monitors are up and working again in Corpus Christi, 85 percent in Houston, and 36 percent in Beaumont. The network is expected to be fully operational again by next week. Of the available air monitoring data collected from Aug. 24-Sept. 2, all measured concentrations were well below levels of health concern. Monitors are showing that air quality at this time is not concerning, and residents should not be concerned about air quality issues related to the effects of the storm.
• Fires at Arkema Facility in Crosby: EPA and TCEQ are coordinating closely with Harris County officials, along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other local public safety officials. As a result of initial chemical fires while the facility was flooded, EPA has collected downstream surface water runoff samples at four locations outside the evacuation zone near residential areas. EPA and TCEQ will maintain a 24-hour watch and maintain a 24-hour presence at the incident command operations center near this facility to support local emergency personnel on the ground. The 1.5-mile radius evacuation zone remains in effect until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe.
• Refineries/Fuel Waivers: In addition to gasoline waivers for 38 states and D.C. and diesel waivers for Texas, EPA signed three No Action Assurance letters on Sept. 1 to help address fuel shortages. NAA will help expedite the distribution of existing gasoline supplies to both Texas and Louisiana, while the refineries work to re-start and resume normal operations. The waivers and NAA letters are effective until Sept. 15 and should allow for the distribution in Texas of 10 million or more gallons of fuel to consumers.
For additional information from TCEQ, please visit http://www.tceq.texas.gov/response/hurricanes”.
9/3/17 UPDATE EPA on the defense http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/349068-epa-defends-action-on-flooded-superfund-sites-in-houston
9/2/17 update with more info here that I cut and pasted items of interest and boldfaced…
“…he worried whether Harvey’s floodwaters had also washed in pollution from the old acid pit just a couple blocks away”.
“…the Houston metro area has more than a dozen such Superfund sites, designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as being among America’s most intensely contaminated places. Many are now flooded, with the risk that waters were stirring dangerous sediment”.
“After the water receded on Friday, a sinkhole the size of a swimming pool had opened up and swallowed two cars. The acrid smell of creosote filled the air”.
“At the Brio Refining Inc. Superfund site in Friendswood, southeast of downtown Houston, the water had receded by Saturday. There was a layer of silt on the road along with large muddy pools. A drainage ditch leading out of the fenced site was full and flowing into a nearby waterway”.
“…the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site was completely covered with floodwaters when an AP reporter saw it Thursday”.
“…warned for years about the potential for flooding to inundate Texas Superfund sites, particularly the San Jacinto Waste Pits. ‘If floodwaters have spread the chemicals in the waste pits, then dangerous chemicals like dioxin could be spread around the wider Houston area,'”
“When Harvey forced many of these power plants and refineries to shut down, huge quantities of toxic chemicals — as much as 2 million pounds of them — were released into the air all at once. Nearby residents reported “unbearable” smells, and some were even told to “shelter in place” as authorities weighed the necessity of evacuation amid rising floodwaters”.
“… 495 of those fall within the greater Houston metropolitan area, responsible for a cumulative 1.5 billion pounds of toxic waste a year.”
“…but as the storm overwhelmed infrastructure and flooded these sites, those concentrated pools of toxins were likely mixed into the floodwaters.
“There’s no need to test it,” one Houston Health department official told the New York Times. “It’s contaminated. There’s millions of contaminants.”
There’s a lot we don’t know about the chemicals released during the storm — air monitors were turned off, and water sampling is only just beginning.”
“Along with creosote, lead, arsenic, and heavy metals may be stirred up from Houston’s old industrial sites. After Hurricane Katrina, elevated lead levels were found in New Orleans’ soil,…”
“The EPA classifies benzene as a PBT, a “persistent bioaccumulative toxin.” That means it sticks around in the environment for a long time, builds up in the food chain, and, yes, is toxic. Benzene exposure is linked to cancer in humans. A natural ingredient of crude oil,…”
“At an ExxonMobil refinery in Beaumont, Texas, storm damage led to the release of more than 1,300 pounds of sulfur dioxide. Another plant in Corpus Christi reported a release of 15,000 pounds“.
“Other gases in these plumes can include carbon monoxide, butane, propane, ethylene, particulate matter, and a nasty carcinogen called 1,3-butadiene.
“…Arkema’s malfunctioning chemical plant in the town of Crosby …organic peroxides, used in plastic manufacturing,…In the company’s worst-case scenario, an explosion could release 66,260 pounds of sulfur dioxide,…”
“An oil spill may seem tame compared to carcinogenic benzene or mutagenic creosote, but oil in its various forms can cause skin irritation, lung inflammation, and a whole slew of other problems up to, and including, death. At least two ExxonMobil refineries were damaged during the storm,…”
“Dioxin is the chemical responsible for the deaths and deformities stemming from the United States’ application of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. An extraordinarily small dose — the size of the period on your screen, say — can trigger a fatal reaction in humans.
In the 1960’s, when Houston was home to many paper mills, one major byproduct was dioxin. Much of the mills’ dioxin waste ended up in pits along the San Jacinto River. Now a Superfund site, the San Jacinto pits flood periodically, dosing the groundwater and the seafood-rich Gulf with deadly poison. During Harvey, the site was said to be underwater again. That means floodwaters could carry dioxin-contaminated sediment into parts of the city that have never been contaminated before, putting people at huge risk of exposure“.
EPA Scott Pruitt permission-to-pollute letter here, https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/response/hurricanes/hurricane-harvey-fuel-waiver-request.pdf. WOW
https://seekingalpha.com/news/3292469-storm-damage-exxon-refineries-caused-release-hazardous-pollutants?app=1&uprof=22#email_link no doubt.
BREAKING UPDATE flaring in Houston happening now on the heels of #HurricaneHarvey
Headaches experienced on this one by a school…..
Thank you Bryan Parras for your above coverage and exposures getting this footage after Hurricane Harvey rolled through the Houston area.
During Hurricane Katrina there were 44 oil spills (that were reported) see link, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9365607/ns/us_news-katrina_the_long_road_back/t/oil-spills-found-southeast-louisiana/#.WaG9MCiGPIU.
For Hurricane Harvey, after viewing a video of damage in Rockport TX, I snapped a Google Earth pic of a pumpjack and four storage tanks in Rockport just over 700 feet from a water body that connects to the gulf…..
So thanks to a friend in the water quality research business, I was given these links when I inquired about my worries on the fossil fuel related potential spills during flooding events….
https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wake.pdf – NRDC report with some statistics on underground tank failures in New Orleans.
https://www.epa.gov/ust/petroleum-brownfields – EPA Brownfields site about underground storage tanks, and EPA’s OUST office, which may be a good contact for more info.
https://www.epa.gov/ust – link to EPA’s UST site, with info on regs and new developments. Might be the best place to start on your inquiry about groundwater.
https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-03/documents/ustfloodguide.pdf- 2010 publication that provides some direction on flood risk and groundwater contamination, as well as GW contamination systems that some modern USTs may already be equipped with. Probably a pretty informative read.
So if worrying about the spills worries you more with historical spill data…don’t worry cause there is nothing you can do about this except push for more renewable energy sources.