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Tons Of Chemicals Leak From Shell Oil Refinery In Deer Park

More details are surfacing about a big leak of a potentially cancer-causing chemical from a refinery near Houston.

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Shell Oil refinery in Deer Park

 

This past Sunday morning at the Shell Oil refinery in Deer Park, one the complexes big, spherical tanks over-filled with a flammable and toxic liquid. According to a report Shell made to state regulators, emergency relief valves began venting vapors into the air. For nearly an hour before workers stopped the over-flow, 180 tons of vapors leaked. The vapors contained butane, vinylacetylene, but by far the biggest component of the mix was butadiene.

“The emission plume would likely have traveled over the Ship Channel and could have impacted communities to the north,” said Adrian Shelley, executive director of the community group, Air Alliance Houston.

“Butadiene is invisible, it is released as a gas, and it would not have been detectable by the human eye,” Shelley said.

But state air monitors a couple miles northeast of the refinery did detect it, showing butadiene spiking at noon though not above levels considered dangerous for short-term exposure.

Butadiene is of special concern in Houston. It leaks from a number of chemical plants along the Ship Channel. A study done by the UT School of Public Health found children living within two miles of the Ship Channel in areas with elevated levels of butadiene in the air had substantially higher rates leukemia.

Both Shell and Texas environmental regulators say they’re investigating Sunday’s big leak.

 

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Air monitoring station at Lynchburg Ferry north of leak shows levels of butadiene spiking at noon. Create a report here.

 

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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