PortandTerminal.com, May 12, 2019
Let’s give it up for the people at the Port of Houston. If ever a group deserved a little respect this year it has to be them. Here’s a brief look back at what the team at the Port of Houston has had to deal with over the past few months to keep cargo moving.
Fire: On March 16th, ExxonMobil’s Baytown refinery caught fire and burned for over four hours. A plume was visible over Houston’s skyline. Although dark smoke came from the facility, no shelter-in-place was issued for surrounding residents.
Fire: On March 17th, ten storage tanks at the Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) caught fire and burned for almost a week. The disaster resulted in days of closed schools for students, shelter-in-place orders for surrounding communities due to elevated benzene levels, and a breach in a dike wall leading to thousands of toxic chemicals spilling into the ship channel. Bloomberg calls the fire “one of the worst Gulf Coast industrial disasters in 14 years”. The channel, Houston’s lifeline to the Gulf and to foreign markets, is shut or under strict limitations during the clean-up.
Storm: The Houston Ship Channel is shut as violent storms wracked the site of the ITC spill in March hampering clean-up and causing more delays. All outbound vessels emerging from the northwest end of the waterway were halted and inbound traffic was limited to ships and barges already en route to final destinations.
Fire: On, April 2nd, just three weeks after the Exxon and ITC fires, another fire breaks out at the KMCO plant in Crosby that left one person dead and two others injured. Located just a 30-minute drive north of the previous fires, the facility caught fire and spread more toxic fumes over the Deer Park neighborhood previously contaminated by the fire at ITC.
Chemical Spill: A portion of the critical Houston Ship Channel is closed after a 755-foot oil tanker and a tug pushing two barges collide. The impact capsized one barge, damaged the other and triggered the leak of gasoline blending stock that the barges were carrying. Clean-up is still ongoing.
Flooding: Houston and its surrounding cope with some of the most severe rainfall and flooding since Hurricane Harvey. Power outages, evacuations, fires, and stranded motorists keep first responders working around the clock as they work to cope with the crisis.
Some good news?
A Baylor University study finds that Gulf killifish — a large minnow common found in the Houston Ship Channel, has adapted to the high levels of pollution in the channel and is surviving.
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