FAQs

UNIFIED COMMAND FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Public Health & Safety

Have there been any injuries?

No significant injuries have been reported at the incident site or during the cleanup operations.  Individuals and businesses that may have suffered damages or losses as a result of the incident can visit ITCclaims.com to download a claim form. The site provides access for users to print the form. Once completed, the form can be submitted by email to: incident31719@itcclaims.com.  Completed claim forms, along with supporting documents, may also be submitted by postal mail to:

ITC Claims
March 17, 2019 Incident
P.O Box 698
Deer Park, Texas 77536

A phone bank is also available to take claims if the other options are not feasible. The claims hotline can be reached at: 346-263-9766.  The hotline is staffed to take calls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday.

Should the community still be concerned about increased benzene in the air?

As cleanup efforts continue, Unified Command expects to see brief, periodic fluctuations in benzene readings within a two-mile radius of the immediate vicinity around the Intercontinental Terminals Company, LLC (ITC) Deer Park incident site. Governmental and ITC teams will continue to be deployed in and around the ITC site as well as in neighboring communities to monitor and quickly report any potential elevation of volatile organic compounds (VOC).

If the air quality is below hazardous levels, why does my throat hurt and/or eyes burn?

There continues to be a low health risk for the general public, according to the Harris County Public Health Department (HCPHD); however, those who live in close proximity to the chemical terminal who may have greater sensitivity to the changes in the environment related to the fire (children, elderly, or those with certain chronic health conditions or immunosuppressed) may be more susceptible. HCPHD recommends that those who have health concerns contact their healthcare provider or if more serious, call 911. If you do not have a healthcare provider, the Harris Health System’s “Ask My Nurse” helpline (713-634-1110) remains open to help answer health questions. To find a healthcare provider close to you, visit: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/?display=map&zip= .

What does shelter-in-place mean and who issues that warning to the public?

Simply put, a shelter-in-place warning means to stay indoors until the danger has past. A shelter-in-place warning for a community can only be issued from a local government entity, such as a city or county. When a warning is issued, residents should listen closely to any special instructions given, but in general, residents should close all windows and exterior doors.

How can the public be sure air quality reports are accurate and not falsified?

There are multiple agencies and contractors providing air monitoring services and reporting their readings. They include a mix of national and state government agencies, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, as well as many local municipalities and independent contractors. Air monitoring performed in conjunction with the ITC Fire Response are available at: https://itcresponse.com/air-monitoring/

Is it safe to fish in the ship channel or around that area?

The Texas Department of State Health Services issued a 2013 fishing advisory for the Houston Ship Channel and modified it on March 27, 2019, advising people not to eat any species of fish or crab from the Houston Ship Channel, the San Jacinto River below the Lake Houston Dam and all contiguous waters north of Highway 146 Fred Hartman Bridge. To learn more about fishing
advisories or to find safe fishing locations, visit dshs.texas.gov/seafood/default.aspx and look for the “Advisories, Bans & Maps” tab on the left.

I live in Deer Park. Is it safe to drink or cook with tap water?

Currently, there are no known or suspected impacts to drinking water; there are no drinking water intakes on the Houston Ship Channel. For more information, visit Deer Park Public Works.

How often are the air and water being tested to make sure both are safe?

On March 18, Intercontinental Terminals Company LLC hired CTEH to conduct air quality monitoring and reporting. CTEH monitors air quality at various sites around Harris County and reports it throughout the day. In addition, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as other municipalities are also performing monitoring and sampling. Both water and air quality monitoring reports provided by ITC are available on the response site: www.ITCresponse.com.

Where are the locations of the Air Quality monitors?

Both governmental and ITC teams are deployed in and around Deer Park and the incident site to monitor and quickly report any potential elevation. As of April 2, all readings have been below any actionable levels. Crews continue to monitor air quality by land and air to report any elevated volatile organic compounds (VOC) around the industrial area near the incident. Detailed air monitoring information can be found at https://itcresponse.com/air-monitoring/ or at https://www.tceq.texas.gov/response/itc-monitoring-air-quality/.

Response Operations

What is Unified Command?

Unified Command is an authority structure, in the Incident Command System, in which the role of incident commander is shared by two or more individuals, each having authority in a different responding agency. Unified Command is often needed for incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or agencies. Unified Command allows agencies with different legal, geographic, and functional authorities and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual agency authority, responsibility, or accountability. For the Intercontinental Terminals Company, LLC (ITC) fire response, Unified Command consists of the following agencies and organizations: the United States Environmental Protection Agency as the federal on-scene coordinator; the United States Coast Guard; the state of Texas, which includes the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Texas Parks & Wildlife; Harris County and Intercontinental Terminals Company, LLC (ITC). All federal and state agencies have a legislative mandate to oversee responses of hazardous substances and oil spills to ensure public health and the environment and to ensure the responsible party takes all necessary action.

What’s the price tag on that?

The primary focus is completing the cleanup and recovery efforts using all resources at Unified Command’s disposal to accomplish that effort while ensuring timely and accurate dissemination of information to the community.

Is there a timeline to have the cleanup operation complete?

The recovery effort is complex and ever-changing. Although substantial progress has been made, Unified Command cannot provide an exact timeline for recovery efforts as the dynamics of the tank farm and waterway change each day. The safety of the responders, impact to surrounding communities and environment is the first priority.

What is the difference between the tanks being “secured” as opposed to “empty?”

“Secured” tanks have residual product in them with water and a blanket of firefighting foam to suppress vapors. These tanks pose a low risk for re-ignition so crews can turn their attention to higher-priority areas for removing product. Clean-up is an ongoing process, and ultimately, all product will be removed from the tank farm/incident site.

Which tanks still hold product?

The numbers of tanks holding product will change as clean-up efforts continue. For the most recent status of the tank farm, view the most recently dated “Operational Update” located at: https://itcresponse.com/category/operational-updates/.

How can we trust the agencies involved in Unified Command? Are the government agencies responding to the incident on the Intercontinental Terminals Company LLC (ITC) payroll?

No. Federal and state agencies responding to the incident are not on the ITC payroll. All federal and state agencies have a legislative mandate to oversee responses of hazardous substances and oil spills to ensure public health and the environment and to ensure the responsible party takes all necessary action. All federal and state agencies have the authority to seek costs associated with the response after the incident.

When did the fire begin, and how wide-spread was the fire?

The initial fire began Sunday, March 17, and ultimately involved 8 of the 15 tanks in the Deer Park tank farm. As of Tuesday evening, March 19, 4 tanks remained on fire. By 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, March 20, the fire was extinguished. After the initial fire was extinguished, a re-ignition of a secondary fire lasted approximately 1 hour before being extinguished. As of 4:45 p.m., March 22, there has been no re-ignition.

Where is the product being transferred?

Responders are currently transferring recovered product from the tank farm and impacted waterways in accordance with the plan as submitted to and approved by state and federal environmental agencies.

If it rains, does it make cleanup and recovery efforts more difficult?

In some aspects of the response, it would serve as a benefit to help flush material to recovery locations. The response team does not see rain as a hindrance; however, we are prepared if it does happen.

What chemicals were in the tanks?

Three tanks contained base oils, three tanks contained gasoline blend stock, four tanks contained Pyrolysis Gasoline, one tank contained Toluene, one tank contained Naphtha, one tank contained Xylene, and two tanks were empty.

How much foam was used during the firefighting effort? Did the firefighters ever run out of foam?

While the exact amount of foam that was used is not known, ITC continually brought in foam from various sources and never at any time ran out of foam.

What is ITC doing to clean up its site and impacted waterways?

Clean-up efforts of the site and impacted waterways continue and recovered materials are being disposed of in accordance with the plan as submitted to and approved by state and federal environmental agencies.

Environmental & Wildlife

Have any environmentally sensitive areas been impacted by the incident?

There are two recognized environmentally sensitive areas within the impacted site, Goat Island and Santa Anna Bayou Marsh. As of April 10, neither area has been impacted by the product in the Houston Ship Channel. Protective boom barriers remain in place to protect sensitive areas of concern.

To view a map showing the extent and location of all currently deployed boom placements, visit: https://itcresponse.com/category/imagery/.

What should we do if we come across effected wildlife?

If the public encounters impacted wildlife, please do not attempt a rescue or recovery. Untrained personnel can inflict serious injury to the animal or may be injured themselves. Instead, call and report impacted wildlife to: 832-368-5379. For the most recent update on impacted wildlife, view the most recently dated “Operational Update” located at: https://itcresponse.com/category/operational-updates/.

Community Impact

How can I file a claim?

Individuals and businesses that may have suffered damages or losses as a result of the incident can visit ITCclaims.com. The site provides access for users to print the form. Once completed, the form can be submitted by email to: incident31719@itcclaims.com.

Completed claim forms, along with supporting documents, may also be submitted by postal mail to:

ITC Claims
March 17, 2019 Incident
P.O Box 698
Deer Park, Texas 77536

A phone bank is also available to take claims if the other options are not feasible. The claims hotline can be reached at: 346-263-9766. The hotline is staffed to take calls from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday

What is the status of the Houston Ship Channel?

All waterways have been opened to inbound and outbound traffic. Throughout the response the U.S. Coast Guard issued daily Marine Safety Information Bulletins (MSIB) to provide Houston Ship Channel (HSC) vessel traffic updates pertaining to the impacted segments of the waterway in response to the cleanup operations. MSIB’s can be found at: https://homeport.uscg.mil/port-directory/houston-galveston under the “Safety Notifications” heading.

Does Intercontinental Terminals Company LLC (ITC) have any comments about the pending lawsuits and litigation against the company?

ITC cannot comment on pending litigation.

Are our elected officials and local authorities aware of the situation?

Unified Command has been meeting and providing updates to local and state officials since early in the event. Public officials and local authorities continue to support ITC in the effort of keeping the public safe and informed.