Houston Skies May Darken Again as Tank Farm Disaster-Site Teardown Begins

By and | June 20, 2019

The company behind the four-day chemical blaze that cast a black plume over Houston earlier this year is preparing to destroy one of the tanks at the facility, raising the risk that the site could see “flash” fires.

Intercontinental Terminals Co. will deconstruct a xylene tank on Wednesday, according to an alert from a community hotline. That could result in “small, short duration flash fires and increased emissions” at the terminal, the alert said. The company said it has a firefighting team on site and has deployed air monitors.

ITC said in March tanks that escaped the flames might have to be demolished anyway because they were compromised by searing temperatures.

Fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company, March 18, 2019, in Deer Park, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

“With the amount of heat that was exposed to those tanks, we’ll have to take all of those most likely out of service, might have to inspect them, potentially have to demolish them and probably start over,” David Wascome, ITC’s senior vice president of operations, told reporters at the time.

The petrochemical storage facility is located 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of downtown Houston in the city of Deer Park. The initial fire spewed a massive smoke column a mile above Houston, but it was the clean-up efforts that led to leaks of cancer-causing benzene in the air and resulted in Deer Park officials telling residents in some areas to shelter in place.

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