Alerts Issued In Texas City After BP Refinery, Dow Plant Lose Power

Power failures at the <"">BP Texas City refinery and an adjacent Dow Chemical plant prompted alerts after power was unable to be restored, said Business Week. Power was lost at about 10:55 Monday night.

Both plants were shut down as a result and a shelter-in-place order was issued to residents. That order, issued by emergency management officials, was lifted at about 3:00 a.m. Tuesday. Also, the Level 3 alert, was dropped to Level 2, noted Business Week, according to a report by Texas City Homeland Security Coordinator Bruce Clawson to The Galveston County Daily News. Evacuations were not mandated.

BP did have to set at least nine flares to burn off excess “product,” wrote Business Week. What was described as a small fire, according to Michael Marr, a BP spokesman, did break out at BP just after the power failed; crews were able to put out the flames and there were no injuries, reported Business Week.

The cause of the outage remains unknown and Texas City and BP say no hazardous materials were emitted in the area, according to George Fuller, Texas City’s assistant emergency management coordinator, added Business Week.

Concerning the BP Texas City refinery, we recently reported that eight contractors who worked at that refinery filed a lawsuit over a 2009 benzene leak. In addition to BP Products North America Inc., the $500 million lawsuit also named Pasadena Tank Corp., a contractor at the Texas City refinery, as a defendant. The benzene leak at the BP Texas City refinery occurred on August 19, 2009.

According to the workers’ lawsuit, a vapor and a strong odor completely enveloped their work area and they pinpointed the source to a broken pipe. Though they evacuated the area, the plaintiffs claim to have been “injured and had his or her long-term health put in jeopardy after being exposed to extremely high levels of benzene.” Each of the workers experienced various symptoms and sought medical treatment, and were informed by their doctors that they had been exposed to benzene. The lawsuit further claimed that BP “minimized the leak and release, and its effects in both its internal documentation, as well as the documentation with the authorities.”

Several organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the U.S. National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) all recognize <"">benzene as a cancer-causing chemical.

Last summer, a release of chemicals from the Texas City plant allowed 17,000 pounds of benzene to leak into the air over a 40-day period between April and May. The incident began on April 6, when BP said a fire compromised a seal on an ultracracker’s hydrogen compressor. The malfunction forced the company to flare off gases. As it worked to fix the unit over the next 40 days, the plant released 538,000 pounds of pollutants into the air, BP told regulators.

BP reported the incident to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality the day after it happened; however, information about the release wasn’t made public until BP submitted a final incident report to regulators June 4. Following the incident, people in the area complained of allergic reactions, sinus infections, headaches, nosebleeds, and other symptoms consistent with benzene exposure.

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