WAIT, DID THE 2008 RECESSION UP THE CHANCES OF A FUTURE HOUSTON CHEMICAL CATASTROPHE? Roy Scranton imagines “a wave of water sweeping toxic waste into playgrounds, shops and houses” in Magnolia Park in his op-ed this morning, written after touring the Ship Channel and speaking with the local A&M and RiceÂ research teams pushing for variations onÂ aÂ series of region-scale coastal barriers to hunker down behind wheneverÂ the nextÂ giganticÂ hurricane hits the Houston region, in hopes of avoiding deadly flooding and catastrophic chemical spills.Â But the researchers tell Scranton that pushing for federal and state funding for a response is a slow endeavor; Jim Blackburn (a main player on the Rice team)Â tells Scranton that he’s “heard more than one person say our plan is to wait until the next hurricane comes,Â then depend on guilt money from Washington to fix the problem.” Scranton writes that the best chance for that guilt money so farÂ might have been in 2008, when Hurricane Ike landed just 30 milesÂ northeastÂ of the zone that modelers say could have caused thousands of deaths and irreparable ecological devastation to the area, on September 13th — 2 days before the Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, pulling global attentionÂ and national funds to other issuesÂ as markets began to crash. [NY Times; previously on Swamplot] Model maps of potentialÂ storm surgeÂ flooding along the ship channel, with chemical storage marked in red:Â Texas Tribune
DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY TO UT: PLEASE DITCH THE PHOTOS OF FLOOD-RELATED CHEMICAL SPILLS WE DIDN’T NOTICE Meanwhile, in Austin: Texas Department of Public Safety officials have recently asked theÂ University of TexasÂ to removeÂ an online collection of aerialÂ photos taken by the Texas Civil Air Patrol during major flooding events, Marty Schladen writesÂ in thisÂ weekend’s El Paso Times. The request comes after the Times reported earlier this spring on what appeared to be photos in the database showing a number ofÂ chemicalÂ spillsÂ not capturedÂ in any other state monitoring records, including spills along the Trinity riverÂ north ofÂ Galveston Bay; other photo sets previously on the site reportedly included shots of Houston sewage treatment plants being flooded on Tax Day, as well asÂ possible unreported spills along the Colorado, Sabine, Red, and Pecos rivers since 2014.Â DPS Spokesman Tom Vinger tells the TimesÂ that pulling the photos isÂ a matter ofÂ protecting privacyÂ — “for example, there could be pictures of deceased individuals prior to family members being appropriately notified first,” says Vinger.Â Non-emergency-respondersÂ can still ask for the photos via Public Information Act request. [El Paso Times]
The ditchesÂ ran red in the Spring Branch area yesterday asÂ the billowing 4-alarm fire nearÂ Laverne St. at Spring Branch Dr. triggered evacuations and shelter-in-place orders across the surrounding areas. The blaze reportedly startedÂ in a home-slash-auto-shop onÂ Laverne and spread next door to the A-1 Custom Packaging warehouseÂ (which transfersÂ large quantities of various industrialÂ liquidsÂ into smaller bottles for distribution). Some of thoseÂ stored chemicalsÂ (including the bright red petroleum additive visible in the shotÂ above) made their wayÂ into drainage ditches and culverts flowing into Spring Branch itself.
The red additive is non-water-solubleÂ and has beenÂ getting pushed aroundÂ by contract clean-up crews downstream to stop the spread. But contractors cannot, the city says, catchÂ the pesticideÂ that also madeÂ itsÂ way into the same drainage channels, asÂ itÂ dissolves inÂ water.Â It’s still unclear how much of the 500 gallons or soÂ thought to have been stored at the site made it all the way into Spring Branch (which flows into Buffalo Bayou south of I-10), but some water quality test results are due backÂ laterÂ today.
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
River Running Red