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Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, EPA, and Other Representatives Held Town Hall About ITC Fires

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United States Representative Sylvia Garcia held a town hall on Wednesday, April 24th about the explosions and resulting fires that occurred at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) chemical processing plant in Deer Park, TX in March.

Held at the Milby High School auditorium in Houston, the town hall was presented by Rep. Garcia, along with members of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, Harris County Public Health, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Chemical Safety Board. The officials held a presentation, and then answered questions from the community.

On March 17th 2019, a fire started burning at the ITC plant, triggering a shelter-in-place order for the town of Deer Park, and eventually nearby Galena Park. The fire continued to burn for several days after the initial blaze, with other fires starting following the extinguishment of the original fire. The fires caused hazardous chemicals (particularly benzene) to be released into the air and leak into the Houston Ship Channel. Smoke from the fire expanded far beyond Deer Park, affecting the entire Houston area.

A representative from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reported that $1.7 million has been spent on cleaning up pollutants. The EPA said 144,000 barrels of chemicals have been removed from the Houston Ship Channel. However, high benzene levels can still be detected in the area around the ITC chemical plant.

Many town hall attendees, along with Rep. Garcia, demanded answers about the effects of benzene exposure on residents, and the current levels of the chemical in the area. As KHOU News reported, many who were affected by the ITC tank fires felt unsatisfied by the information that was provided by the presenters.

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