Harris County, TX – On Sunday, March 17, 2019, at approximately 10am, a storage tank caught fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) Deer Park facility, located at 1943 Independence Parkway. Industry neighbors and multiple local agencies actively fought the fire to prevent it from spreading and to extinguish it as quickly as possible. As of early Wednesday morning, March 20, the fire had been extinguished but raised the threat of additional community exposures to benzene and other volatile organic compounds detected by stationary and mobile air monitors employed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, because of a breach in the containment wall around the tank farm, the water quality surrounding the facility from Tucker Bayou into the Houston Ship Channel has been compromised with at least 9 toxins detected through initial water sampling results. The response action to this disaster continues prompting still more questions for community members as to not only what the short-term impacts were on the health of their community, but potential long-term public impacts of this disaster that is still unfolding.

In an effort to provide some information to environmental justice communities on the potential impacts of the ITC Deer Park Disaster, LSLA’s Environmental Justice team has created a presentation that can be tailored to specific communities who want to learn more about how this recent industrial accident may have impacted them and Harris County as a whole. On April 2, 2019, Amy Dinn, Managing Attorney for Lone Star Legal Aid, first made this presentation to over 100 community members at the monthly membership meeting of the Pleasantville Civic League on the recent ITC Deer Park Disaster that started in Harris County on Sunday, March 17, 2019. The presentation outlined the timeline for the disaster and the major events that had occurred since the fire first broke out at ITC’s Deer Park facility.

In addition to providing an overview of the disaster and the ongoing cleanup activities, Dinn provided specific information on the levels of NOx, PM2.5, PM10, VOCs likely experienced by the community of Pleasantville during the first week of the event so that neighbors would understand their exposure levels. Dinn explained the recent enforcement actions filed by the Attorney General’s office and Harris County against ITC and also answered questions pertaining to the ongoing disaster response as water sampling and air monitoring continues near ITC’s facility in the impacted area.

If your community organization is interested in having a presentation put together on the ITC Deer Park Disaster that is specific to your neighborhood, please contact our Environmental Justice Team. An example of the presentation provided to Pleasantville is now available on LSLA’s webpage for its Environmental Justice Resources associated with its Equitable Development Initiative.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and wellbeing; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, and how to apply for legal services, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.