Shell Chemical Plant discharges fire wastewater into ship channel; Here’s how experts say it could impact marine life

DEER PARK, Texas – After more than 50 hours of battling the massive chemical fire that broke out at Shell’s Deer Park chemical plant, officials said the fire was finally put out Sunday night.

SEE ALSO: 9 contractors released from hospital after Shell Chemical Plant fire in Deer Park

They added that the incident occurred in the plant’s Olefins unit while workers were performing routine maintenance in the area.

In addition, Shell officials said they were forced to send the excess water used to fight the flames into the Houston Ship Channel as part of a controlled release.

How much water are we talking about?

Up to 11,000 gallons per minute, according to Shell officials.

“We put out the fire in the facility. We are continuing to use reactive measures to control hot spots. And, as of just now, we’ve closed that valve and we’re not discharging [wastewater] into the ship’s channel at this point,” said Nathan Levin, general manager of the Shell chemical plant.

Shell says the dumping has stopped now, but the question is, could the already released water pollute the ship’s channel and eventually poison marine life in Galveston Bay.

Aerial video from SKY2 shows the large floating booms that Shell has placed in the water to stop contamination.

The question is, will they work?

KPRC 2 asked Professor Jim Blackburn, an environmental lawyer in Rice University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Well, booms work for anything that floats on the surface of the water. So if there’s oil or chemicals floating around…yes, that would help. But a lot of those chemicals dissolve in water and they’ll just move into the water and go under those booms. So, booms are effective against some things but not everything,” Jim said.

Right now, several agencies including the EPA, Harris County Pollution Control and the Texas Commission On Environmental Quality are taking and testing water samples in the ship’s channel and are asking Shell to do the same thing for days and weeks to come.

So, what will happen to the threatened marine life in the ship’s channel or the oysters or shrimp further down Galveston Bay?

Professor Blackburn says only extensive tests on water will tell us so.

“The big concern is really what’s moving from the canal to Galveston Bay. Hopefully it’s very diluted amounts and it doesn’t go far to the bay. But until we see the data, we won’t know for sure. They need to keep doing water tests,” Blackburn said.

SEE ALSO: Fire reignites at Shell chemical plant in Deer Park

PHOTO/VIDEO: Black smoke, fire erupts from an industrial plant after the explosion near Deer Park

Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.

Content Source

Related Articles