March 23 (UPI) — A fire broke out at a Houston-area chemical plant Friday, two days after firefighters extinguished a four-day blaze that sent plumes of black smoke into the air, officials said.
Intercontinental Terminals Company said at least two tanks in the west side of the Deer Park plant reignited shortly after 3:30 p.m. The Houston Chronicle said a runoff ditch near the plant also appeared to be on fire.
The Deer Park Office of Emergency Management said officials temporarily closed the Beltway 8 Ship Channel Bridge due to the blaze. Officials did not issue a shelter-in-place order for residents despite doing so earlier in the week after the first blaze.
ITC issued a shelter-in-place for industrial neighbors and the San Jacinto Texas State Historic Site after a dike holding back chemicals partially collapsed. Officials said the collapse could impact the effectiveness of a foam blanket put over the tank farm to prevent more fires.
Earlier Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an environmental lawsuit against ITC over the initial blaze, which began Sunday and lasted through Wednesday. Most of the tanks involved in the fire contained chemicals involved in the production of gasoline, including benzene.
“The state of Texas works hard to maintain good air quality and will hold ITC accountable for the damage it has done to our environment,” Paxton said. “ITC has a history of environmental violations, and this latest incident is especially disturbing and frightening. No company can be allowed to disrupt lives and put public health and safety at risk.”
Area officials initially said the fire and billowing black smoke would not cause health problems but that changed Thursday when authorities detected volatile organic compounds.
Deer Park and the nearby city of Galena Park issued a shelter-in-place order, and several school districts and the San Jacinto College campus closed Thursday.