Public Safety

City of La Porte lifts shelter-in-place order after chemical emergency at Altivia plant

Citing an active leak of phosgene, a toxic gas, from the Altivia facility, La Porte asked residents in the industrial community to shelter in place for nearly two hours Monday. The office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said eight people were transported from the plant because of exposure to the chemical.

Altivia La Porte
The City of La Porte issued a shelter-in-place order for some of its residents on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, citing an active leak of phosgene from the Altivia chemical plant.

A phosgene leak at a chemical plant in La Porte led to the hospitalization of multiple people and prompted the Houston-area municipality to issue a shelter-in-place Monday for some of its residents, according to the City of La Porte and the office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

The city lifted its shelter-in-place order shortly after 1:30 p.m. Monday, nearly two hours after declaring a “chemical emergency” because of an active leak of phosgene, a toxic gas, at the Altivia facility near the intersection of Fairmont Parkway and South 16th Street. Hidalgo’s office wrote that eight people were transported to hospitals “due to exposure, and all were stable at the time of leaving the facility.”

“The City of La Porte Fire Department has confirmed with Harris County Pollution Control there are no detectable amounts of immediately hazardous products near or downwind of the Altivia facility,” the city said in a Monday afternoon news release. “The cautionary shelter-in-place has been lifted and the all clear has been sounded for the chemical emergency. Normal activities may be resumed across the community.”

A spokesperson for Houston-based Altivia did not immediately respond to a voicemail and email seeking comment.

Lee Woodward, a spokesperson for the City of La Porte, said residents near the industrial area where the Altivia plant is located were asked to immediately shelter in place shortly before noon Monday. They were asked to proceed to the nearest building to seek shelter while closing all doors and windows and turning off cooling or heating systems.

There were no impacts to any La Porte ISD schools as none are in the shelter area, according to the city.

“Altivia engaged in efforts to contain the release,” the city said.

Phosgene is a colorless gas that has a strong odor similar to musty hay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which says on its website that workers can be harmed by exposure to phosgene. It may cause irritation to the eyes, dry burning throat, vomiting, cough, foamy sputum, breathing difficulty and chest pain, according to the CDC.

The Altivia plant is located in an industrial area where there are multiple chemical plants. The city said some intersections from Bay Area Boulevard to 16th Street, between Fairmont Parkway and Spencer Highway to the north, had been closed by law enforcement to prevent traffic in the area.