Houston's task of decontamination and detoxification is arduous after multiple chemical plant leaks

2021-11-15 17:42
Affected by the hurricane, nearly 40 companies in the Houston area leaked toxic chemicals, of which 13 companies had chemicals that flowed into the river nearby. The spilled toxic chemicals included polychlorinated biphenyls, but the exact amount is not yet known. Polychlorinated biphenyls are carcinogens that easily accumulate in adipose tissue, causing diseases of the brain, skin and internal organs, and affecting the nervous, reproductive and immune systems. In addition, the problem of environmental pollution caused by sewage should not be underestimated. Experts said that in the past, 250 mm of rainfall brought by hurricanes would cause more than 7 million tons of sewage to overflow. The rainfall brought by Hurricane Harvey was as high as 1,400 mm, which exceeded the normal annual rainfall in the region and set a new record for rainfall in the continental United States. The amount of urban sewage overflow will also set a new record. The Houston area is the center of the U.S. chemical industry, with more than 230 chemical plants, 33 oil refineries and hundreds of kilometers of transportation pipelines. Houston is a port city with rivers reaching the Gulf of Mexico, so Houston is also an important freight center in the United States. After the "9.11" incident, in order to prevent terrorist attacks, the US Department of Homeland Security listed Houston as a priority protection list.
A chemical plant at risk of another explosion A chemical plant that exploded
on August 30 is at risk of another explosion. The chemical plant is a subsidiary of Arkema in Crosby, Texas, 40 kilometers from downtown Houston. The plant mainly produces various peroxides that can be used in industries such as medicine and construction. After the plant was flooded, the backup generator stopped working, the power supply was interrupted, and the temperature of some chemicals that needed to be refrigerated rose, which caused a decomposition reaction, and then smoked and caught fire, causing an explosion. Arkema said on Aug. 31 that the factory could explode again. Residents within a 2.4-kilometer radius around the factory have all been evacuated, and no one was injured. It is uncertain whether it caused environmental pollution. Since "Harvey" just passed the border, the disaster situation of many factories is unknown. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working with the Texas Department of Environmental Protection to investigate the conditions of these chemical plants. "It's not over yet," said Bill Hoyle, a former investigator with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Agency. "Clearly these plants were not taking enough action and precautions. After the Arkema incident was resolved, there were more dominoes in the area. The dominoes will fall."
36 Texas counties urgently need federal assistance
The Category 4 hurricane "Harvey" made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Texas on August 25, bringing continuous heavy rainfall to many parts of southern Texas, including Houston, and causing casualties. So far, about 40 people have been killed in the floods caused by "Harvey", and about 30,000 people have been sheltered in dozens of shelters. Experts estimate that the number of people who need to apply for federal assistance will be as many as hundreds of thousands. Texas Governor Abbott announced on the 1st that 36 counties in Texas have so far been severely affected by Hurricane Harvey and need assistance from the federal government. On the same day, the government of Harris County, where Houston is located, announced that due to severe flooding, the disaster state will be extended for two weeks.


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