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Environmental Groups Are Gathering Public Feedback About ITC Fire

They’re holding a series of town hall meetings to help plan for future environmental disasters.

Sema Hernandez speaks at a press conference.

Community and environmental advocates are launching a series of town halls in the wake of the chemical plant fire in Deer Park. Local leaders from the Sierra Club, Air Alliance Houston, Public Citizen and other groups are looking for public feedback about how the incident was handled by authorities.

Terri Garcia, a Deer Park resident with three children, said she and other parents have urgent questions that haven’t been answered.

“I want to know what’s really in the air, what’s really falling on us,” Garcia said. “And I want to know what’s going to be in our bodies. And I want to know now. I don’t want to find out later. I want to know now.”

Garcia said Deer Park is a young community where air pollution threatens many children.

“We know where we live. We know what we’re up against. We know these things,” she said. “But we choose to be here. What we don’t choose is to have a burning ring of fire for three days on end.”

Sema Hernandez, a Pasadena resident whose children attend Deer Park ISD, said she’s concerned that companies in the area aren’t held accountable for public health.

“How many people are affected directly, from the refinery workers and the first responders? Because we know that they were exposed,” she said. “What type of mitigation is going to take place?”

Community advocates urged the city and the county to improve notification systems and even put plans in place to evacuate during potentially toxic emergencies.

Four different agencies have been monitoring the air quality: the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Harris County, the Environmental Protection Agency and ITC. 

Regional and local officials have said they didn’t issue an emergency alert for air pollution because the chemical releases were carried to an altitude of approximately 4,000 feet. Ground level air monitors showed normal to moderate air quality readings.

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