Shelter-in-place order issued for Texas city due to elevated benzene levels after oil tank fire

DEER PARK, Texas -- A shelter-in-place has been issued for the City of Deer Park and Galena Park due to elevated levels of benzene at the ITC facility, where tanks burned for days.

Galena Park has issued a shelter-in-place out of an abundance of caution.

The city tweeted that it is actively monitoring the air quality and will continue to monitor the situation.

An odor may be noticeable to the community. The Houston Fire Department's hazardous materials units are responding to the scene.

Several school districts in the area announced that classes are cancelled due to this recent ITC incident. The districts include Deer Park, La Porte, Pasadena, Channelview, Sheldon and Galena Park.

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Traffic anchor Katherine Whaley said SH-225 will be shut down soon due to a shelter-in-place near ITC. Currently, the eastbound lanes are closed.

According to a message from the Community Awareness Emergency Response (CAER) system, an incident occurred at the facility, located at 1943 Independence Parkway, around 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

"It is recommended that industrial and public neighbors south of Tidal Road, east of Beltway 8, west of Underwood and north of Pasadena Boulevard take shelter in place precautions until further notice," the message said.

ITC told ABC13 an employee monitoring the area around the tank fire detected the elevated levels of benzene using a handheld device.

The company believes shifting winds may have disturbed the foam being used to suppress the fire, leading to the elevated benzene levels.

ITC issued an update at 6 a.m. Thursday, saying that the levels of benzene are "below those that represent an immediate risk."

Emergency responders are continuing to monitor the air quality as ITC works with the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Harris County and other agencies

The ITC tank fire burned as many as eight tanks from Sunday to Wednesday, creating concern about the air quality from residents in the area due to the thick, black smoke from the fire.

The tanks were all extinguished early Wednesday morning until a flare-up that was contained within about 30 seconds occurring later in the day, the city's government Twitter account said.

ITC is working with local officials to resolve the issue as soon as possible, the CAER message said.

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ITC told ABC13 an employee monitoring the area around the tank fire detected the elevated levels of benzene using a handheld device.


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