A chemical leak at the Dow Chemical Bayport facility prompted the emergency measures which soon went from shelter in place to evacuate, around 8:30 a.m. this morning. Just before 7:30, residents in La Porte, Texas, near Houston, were told to get inside immediately and turn off their air conditioning. The stay in place was lifted around 10:50 a.m. but the evacuation notice is still in effect.
Shelter inside now
Residents to the east of 13300 Bay Area Boulevard were warned to immediately get indoors, with further precautions to avoid chemical fumes by shutting off their air conditioning systems, closing windows and doors. At the time, nobody was told what chemical was leaking.
All that officials were saying is that a “tank is venting at Dow’s Houston Operations Bayport site. Out of an abundance of caution, employees were instructed to evacuate the site and a shelter in place was issued for the surrounding area outline below.” According to the city’s office of emergency management, “an evacuation order” remains in place “for those living within a half-mile radius of the facility.”
— 😷 La Porte Emergency Management (OEM) (@lpoem) July 21, 2021
Later, Dow issued a statement noting “no injuries occurred due to the venting of hydroxy ethyl acrylate.” That’s “an acrylic used in coatings and adhesives.” The company is convinced they kept the leak on site.
“There is no indication by monitoring data that this event has caused off-site impact. However, out of abundance of caution, employees were evacuated and we continue to work with the Office of Emergency Preparedness on a shelter in place.”
Most of the area is covered with huge industrial facilities but there is at least one residential neighborhood “within the evacuation zone.”
Police estimate fewer than 10 homes affected by the shelter alert. Spectacular video is making the social media rounds depicting “fire crews dousing a tanker trailer with water from multiple directions at the site.”
Process upset incident
The lawyers for Dow chemical have a whole notebook full of harmless sounding phrases to describe horrific industrial accidents. Instead of calling it a chemical leak, probably caused by human error, Dow corporate officials talk about the “process upset incident.”
The slight upset not only caused shelter in place orders and evacuation, it caused traffic to be diverted “away from the evacuation zone.” The morning commute was further snarled because “West Fairmont Parkway and Bay Area Boulevard were both shut down.” It also was a huge distraction for the “225 Dow workers and another 150 contractors” who work at the 139 acre facility.
Inhalation causes irritation of nose and throat. Contact with liquid irritates eyes and skin.
— HarrisCoPC (@HarrisCoPC) July 21, 2021
Texas Pollution Control revealed that “the leak occurred when a tank wagon over-pressurized, causing a release of hydroxyethyl acrylate from the tank vent.” Also known as ROCRYL 420, it is “an acrylic used in coatings and adhesives to provide scratch resistance, chemical resistance, weatherization and other properties”
The shelter in place order is the result of the chemical’s propensity to cause “severe skin burns and eye damage.” It can also “cause an allergic skin reaction, and is harmful if swallowed.”
La Porte Independent School District canceled secondary summer school for the day due to the shelter and evacuation alerts.
A Dow spokesperson said the company “was working with local officials to resolve the issue.” Pollution Control advises that the release “remains ongoing, with no indication of when it will end.”