fire in deer park tx

This Isn't The First Time That The Chemical Plant In Deer Park, TX Has Impacted The Environment

But it needs to be the last.


A fire broke out Sunday (March 17th) around 11 a.m. in two tanks at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. (ITC) Petrochemical plant In Deer Park, TX (near the Houston area). The two original tanks that caught fire contained NAPHTHA and XYLENE. Both of which are components in gasoline.

Exposure symptoms to NAPHTHA include headache, fatigue, poor concentration, emotional instability, impaired memory, and other intellectual functions. It can affect the respiration system and be irritating to the eyes.

XYLENE can be fatal if swallowed and cause skin irritation. Other symptoms could include symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.

A third tank caught fire early Monday morning containing Toluene, used in items like nail polish remover, glue, and paint thinner. Exposure to this chemical can make people sick immediately or possibly cause health effects over time.

Early reports had said that the fire would only last until Wednesday but now officials are unsure.

A definitive timetable no longer exists, said Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen in a news confrence.

Two additional tanks caught fire overnight due to the water pressure dropping. It had been previously contained to just six tanks spread to eight by 2:30 a.m.

Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said his agency is closely monitoring the air quality. So, there is no need to worry, at least for now, it is good but that doesn't mean it won't change.

The chemical plant is closed and evacuated. The fire burned for nearly four days before finally being extinguished early Wednesday morning. Although there might still be a possibility of reigniting a release from the company said.

The company involved has had a history of environmental violations and has had to pay more than $200,000 in fines over the past decade.

It has violated several clean air and water acts many times since 2009, doing so in the last nine out of the past 12 quarters according to EPA data. The most recent fine being in July of 2017, when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality made the company pay $18,300 due to the release of cyanide in the San Jacinto River basin, which was more than 10 times the levels permitted.

And the fire at ITC is not the first time that this type of event has happened, but it needs to be the last.

In October of 1986, there was a major explosion, causing one death and injuring seven others as well as two fire trucks. Some of the workers at the time had been loading barrels of methyl tertiary butyl ether or MTBE on to a barge when it caught fire, which caused the explosion. This type of chemical is used in unleaded gasoline to help raise the oxygen content in it. About 13 thousand barrels were on board at the time. The fire went on for five days.

As someone who lives a few miles away from the area affected (and someone from a city that relies on these types of industries), I feel that there should be more safety measure put into place and while we are lucky that this time, no one was hurt. We may not be the next time.

Popular Right Now

Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?


When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

Cover Image Credit:

Vinicius Amano


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A Walk Through Nature

A calm mind creates more conscious and clear thoughts, always find your peace; wherever it may be.


The past few weeks have been an exploration of extreme limits that I can make my body go through. Being anxious about school and feeling like my work couldn't be good enough, I really began to rip apart my self-esteem and motivation to continue creating artwork or even writing for that matter.

When I'm in a funk, it's hard to get out of my head and wrap it around the concept of doing regular daily tasks. I forget about responsibilities and I forget about self-care — homework becomes more important and sleep becomes my daydreams. I have become aware of the undeniable peace showers can bring you after long days. I appreciate the moments where I can sit down and take a breath. Learning a lot about mental illness from different classes I have taken, things I experience or watch others go through helps me understand that it is real, it's not unusual, and it needs our attention. I believe that in order for mental illness to be taken seriously, we first have to address it in all seriousness with a positive mindset and a love of love. As we are becoming more aware of ourselves every day, our mindset changes and I find that thinking so much can be very draining and time-consuming — a balance becomes necessary.

One of the most important things I try to focus on is the thoughts and words that I formulate. Putting thoughts on paper, expressing them in doodles or even listening to music, it helps me see and feel what I am thinking.

With this crazy Illinois weather, I have (along with the rest of Illinois, I assume) felt deprived of sunlight and fresh air. The cloudy days and stacks of projects gathering on my to-do list were becoming overwhelming and quite frankly depressing. These worries and responsibilities were consuming my thoughts and keeping me from getting a restful night's sleep. When I wake up in the morning I feel sick and this prevents me from feeling good the rest of the day. It's hard to shake a state of mind, especially when you have nowhere for your thoughts to go.

These first few nice days were my opportunity to go outside and really gather my thoughts. When I am outside, I feel like the world is so open and opportunity is so available. I become more open-minded and I physically am able to breathe better.

This past weekend I went to Starved Rock with people I am close to and I felt incredible. I felt better than I had for the past few months and that to me was a sign of strength. Bringing my camera with me, of course, I felt inclined to capture how beautiful spring was starting to feel.

Alana Charboneau

Sometimes it is easier said than done to prove to yourself you are strong enough to overcome whatever you are going through. Other times you just have to submit yourself to getting help, because it doesn't make you weak; it makes you stronger.

When I am taking photos, I am able to express myself more through the nature I encounter or the way I view the world. Every detail matters and that is what I tend to focus on when photographing.

Alana Charboneau

I hope Columbia sees this and is inspired, or uses my photograph!

Alana Charboneau

I loved the fresh smell and soft feeling of green moss in-between my fingers.

Alana Charboneau

Ticks — ew. BUT they are essential (like all things nature) to the ecosystem.

Alana Charboneau

I hope you find what brings you harmony and peace in yourself. Never stop searching for who you are meant to be and always put yourself first, give yourself everything you need to be happy; before worrying about what others need.

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