A Houston Chronicle attempt to get more info about the surprise chemical warehouse fire that turned Spring Branch Creek blood red earlier this year has been denied by the city, writes Matt Dempsey this week. The city has reportedly appealed to the state attorney general’s office to block the records request, as well as the paper’s broader request for “the name and address of every facility that files a hazardous material inventory form.”
The early May fire spread from a residence on Laverne St., igniting still-unquantified amounts of still-unnamed chemicals stored at the Custom Packaging & Filling warehouse behind it — a business that didn’t show up on the list of storage facilities the Chronicle was able to compile from local emergency planning groups, after the city and state blocked a previous request for similar info last year. The blaze left some firefighters with chemical burns and respiratory issues, and left stretches of nearby waterways decorated with festive biohazard signs and oil booms as the EPA did what they could about the mixture of pesticides and whatever else was killing the fish that drained from the site.
Mayor Turner told the Chronicle after the fire that transparency on hazardous chemical storage was important, given that “in the absence of zoning, you really don’t know what’s next door. At the very minimum, we should know what hazardous materials and the quantity that people are operating with when they’re next door to you.”
Assistant city attorney Nneka Kanu’s letter to the state, however, reportedly argues that the information could be used by terrorists. The state has previously used the same line of reasoning to block requests for storage facility information; then-attorney-general Greg Abbott insisted in 2014 that “you know where they are, if you drive around.”
- City denies request for chemical data [Houston Chronicle]
- Chemical Breakdown: Part 1 [Houston Chronicle]
- Previously on Swamplot: Spring Branch Isn’t Bright Red Today But You Still Really Shouldn’t Go Swimming In It; Good Thing Spring Branch Had All That Flooding Last Month; That Blood Red Stuff in the Bayou May Not Be Spring Branch’s Biggest Problem Right Now; What’s On Fire in Spring Branch This Morning And Who the City Says Should Worry About It
Photo: Matthew Harkrider