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Hurricane Harvey Floods Texas Toxic Waste Sites

The storm took down a quarter of US oil refining capacity and lifted average gasoline prices by more than 17.5 cents since Aug. 23. The storm took down a quarter of US oil refining capacity and lifted average gasoline prices by more than 17.5 cents since Aug. 23.

At least 13 toxic waste sites in Texas were flooded or damaged by Hurricane Harvey, adding on to the challenges as the area begins cleanup efforts following the deadly storm. The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Saturday that it had assessed 41 Superfund sites using aerial images and determined the ones badly affected by the storm, CNN reported.

A Superfund site is land contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health/environment. The 13 affected sites have industrial waste from petrochemical companies, acid compounds, solvents and pesticides.    

The impact of flooding on the sites is unknown. EPA said its workers have not been able to “safely access the sites” but are ready to do so as soon as the floodwaters recede.

In the Houston area, authorities had said it would take 10-15 days for floodwaters to recede.

The toxic waste sites are not the first environmental threat Texas has faced since Harvey swept through the region. Fires broke out over two days at a flooded chemical plant near Houston.

People living within 2.5 kilometers from the Arkema site in Crosby were evacuated days before the explosions and now officials are letting chemical containers catch fire and burn out rather than endanger firefighters, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said in a joint statement.

The Superfund sites and the Arkema plant represent just a snapshot of the cascading effects of the catastrophic storm. It comes as several key refineries began restarting over the weekend after Harvey slammed into the US Gulf Coast energy hub and crippled their operations.

The storm took down a quarter of US oil refining capacity and lifted average gasoline prices by more than 17.5 cents since Aug. 23.

On Saturday, ExxonMobil Corp began restarting the country’s second-largest oil refinery, the 560,500-barrel-per-day Baytown, Texas, unit, while Phillips 66 said it was working to resume operations at its 247,000 bpd Sweeny refinery and at its Beaumont oil and fuels terminal.

The restarts followed an announcement from Valero Energy Corp on Friday that it was increasing production at its Corpus Christi, Texas-area refineries. The hurricane battered Texas before weakening to a tropical storm and inundated the region with torrential rains and flooding. Some pipelines also restarted over the weekend. Still, the majority of Texas ports remained closed to large vessels, limiting discharge of imported crude, and the Colonial Pipeline, which hauls more than 3 million bpd of refined products, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast to the populous US Northeast, was also partially closed.

 

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