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Texas Chemical Plant Fire Leads To Two Evacuations In One Week Over Cancer Fears

Houston-area residents living near a chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas, have been ordered to evacuate for a second time, due to concerns about cancer-causing chemicals in the air stemming from a fire the day before Thanksgiving.

There were a series of explosions and a fire at the TPC chemical plant on November 27, which burned for six days and injured three workers. At the time, a mandatory evacuation was issued for all who lived within four miles of the plant.

The fire was not put out until Tuesday. However, the 14,000 residents of Port Neches were again ordered to evacuate late Wednesday, after air monitors detected high levels of butane and butadiene, which are known carcinogens.

Officials warned that exposure could lead to dizziness, nausea, headaches and eye and throat irritation.

The evacuation order was lifted on Thursday, after workers were able to stop the leaks coming from the heavily damaged plant.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a statement on December 5 indicating air quality had improved.

“This morning, responders closed a leaking pressure relief valve, the source of elevated butadiene readings,” the press release stated. “Air monitoring immediately showed significant reduction of butadiene levels following the closure.”

The Texas chemical plant fire and evacuations come amid a year of major plant explosions in the state. The largest occurred at an ExxonMobile refinery on July 31 in Baytown, which left 37 injured due to burns and chemical fire-related injuries. The same plant also suffered a fire in March.

The number of incidents has raised concerns among officials and residents.

“Within the last year, I have witnessed an unacceptable trend of significant incidents impacting the Gulf Coast region,” TCEQ Executive Director Toby Baker said in a November 27 statement. “While not all emergency events may be prevented, it is imperative that industry be accountable and held to the highest standard of compliance to ensure the safety of the state’s citizens and the protection of the environment.”

The cause of the explosions and fire at the TPC Plant is still under investigation.

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