Month after ITC explosion at Deer Park plant, Ship Channel traffic at near capacity

April 9, 2019

Ship traffic at the Houston Ship Channel is operating at near capacity, nearly a month after a fire and explosion at a Deer Park chemical holding plant temporarily shut down part of the channel, officials said Tuesday.

In its latest update since the March 17 explosion and fire at Intercontinental Terminals Co., authorities on Tuesday also said air monitoring continues and that no readings have warranted notification to local governments. Past readings have shown a spike in benzene, which prompted a shelter in place in the Deer Park area.

The fire erupted at a site holding 15 tanks, many containing components to make gasoline. Eleven of the tanks in the farm have been secured, ITC incident commander Brent Weber said Tuesday.

Authorities also said that nearly four dozen animals have died since the incident, including five turtles, six possums, 15 birds and 21 fish. None are on an endangered species list, said Adam Adams with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Adams also said 21 bird that were recovered and six died during rehabilitation.

The ship channel was temporarily closed to regular traffic for more than a week, after a containment wall breached at the charred tank farm and released an unknown amount of chemicals and firefighting foam into the water way.

Daylight restrictions on ship channel traffic were lifted on Friday, said Kevin Oditt, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Commander, and operations for ships are now at near capacity. None of last week’s inbound ships required decontamination. Tugs and barges are operating at 65 percent to 75 percent capacity.

Authorities continue to say they have no timeline for how long cleanup operations will take.