PORT NECHES, Texas — Officials say levels of 1, 3-Butadiene have been "greatly reduced to non-irritating amounts" in Port Neches in the area of the TPC Group plant. The voluntary evacuation and shelter in place have been lifted, according to the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management.
In a Thursday afternoon news conference, officials with the Chemical Safety Board said worker's descriptions of events leading up to the explosions are consistent with a butadiene release. CSB teams can do a full investigation once the area is stable and safe. They goal for the group is to 'determine the root cause' for the explosions.
They say a fundamental failure in the system at the facility is to blame for the release. Officials say the investigation is in the early stages, but they do not believe employees were working on the equipment that failed.
Officials said it's too early to say how much butadiene has been released.
Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said air quality tests have showed no asbestos in the air. Branick said he stayed in his home in Port Neches on Wednesday night, but the voluntary evacuation order was put in place for anyone who felt uncomfortable or had symptoms of butadiene exposure.
Judge Branick said about 5:30 Wednesday evening, air quality readings started to show 'hits,' leading to the order. He said the hits were detected about a half mile to the southwest of the TPC site.
He said the levels are far below anything that might cause long-term health risks.
Jason Sanders, Environmental Manager at TPC Group said they're working to remove all materials that are still on site. Sanders said the goal is to do it as safely as possible.
According to Sanders, the tanks hold butadiene, crude butadiene and rafinite.
He said to ensure there aren't any more leaks or releases, they'll perform 'mechanical integrity assessments' to make sure there aren't breaches in the equipment.
Glenn Johnson stepped up the the podium on Thursday afternoon to give some strong words to the members of the community.
"You've got a city manager, fire chief, a police chief, a public works director that have been working their butts off for the last 8 days trying to keep the citizens of Port Neches safe," Johnson said. "We're not making decisions on what's gonna get us reelected, we're making decisions on what keeps the citizens safe."
He discouraged community residents from getting information from social media.
"We have websites, that have official information on those websites," Johnson said. "Stop going to social media to get your information. Go to the Port Neches response website."
The Jefferson County, Texas Office of Emergency Management statement via Facebook..
Throughout the morning, TPC staff have been working to stop leaks that contributed to the elevated levels of 1,3-Butadiene in the City of Port Neches. As a result of the actions taken, the levels have now been greatly reduced to non-irritating amounts. Air monitoring will continue to ensure the levels are being maintained at their current measurements. Due to the improved current conditions, the City of Port Neches and Jefferson County Judge Branick are lifting the shelter in place and voluntary evacuation order for the City of Port Neches.
Wind was expected to shift directions last night, and high humidity should keep the vapors close to the ground according to Jefferson County Emergency Management officials.
A Facebook post from the Port Neches Police Department reported decreased levels of butadiene overnight. The highest levels detected were in the Earl street, Merriman and Seabrook areas. Some areas being measured do not pose a serious health risk but may cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, irritated eyes and throat.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you are encouraged to leave your location. Authorities says any of these symptoms experienced are reversible and will not have long term effects.
Current levels don't pose a flammability or explosion risk according to officials.
Port Neches-Groves ISD has canceling school for the remainder of the week according to a district official.
A call for a shelter-in-place was made just after 6 p.m. Wednesday by Port Neches Fire Chief Paul Nelson. A Port Neches Response news release says it was made out of an 'abundance of caution.'
Statement from the Jefferson County Emergency Management at 7 a.m. 12/5/2019
Voluntary evac will remain in place. Monitoring has been conducted overnight and although levels are lower, they are still detectable. Highest levels are still in the Earle/Merriman/Saybrook areas. We will update when conditions change.Please be sure to look at official social media pages. There are many people purposely posting false information.
Full Statement from The Stan at 6:54 a.m. 12/5/2019
Voluntary evac will remain in place. Monitoring has been conducted overnight and although levels are lower, they are still detectable. Highest levels are still in the Earle/Merriman/Saybrook areas. We will update when conditions change.
Officials told 12News the reason for the spike in levels is crews are spraying water on the equipment, causing it to shift. The fire was extinguished Tuesday— 7 days after two major explosions rocked homes and businesses in Jefferson County on Nov. 27.