The ditches ran red in the Spring Branch area yesterday as the billowing 4-alarm fire near Laverne St. at Spring Branch Dr. triggered evacuations and shelter-in-place orders across the surrounding areas. The blaze reportedly started in a home-slash-auto-shop on Laverne and spread next door to the A-1 Custom Packaging warehouse (which transfers large quantities of various industrial liquids into smaller bottles for distribution). Some of those stored chemicals (including the bright red petroleum additive visible in the shot above) made their way into drainage ditches and culverts flowing into Spring Branch itself.
The red additive is non-water-soluble and has been getting pushed around by contract clean-up crews downstream to stop the spread. But contractors cannot, the city says, catch the pesticide that also made its way into the same drainage channels, as it dissolves in water. It’s still unclear how much of the 500 gallons or so 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 back later today.
The Houston Fire Dept. says that city water supplies are safe to drink, but that anyone with a well in the area should probably get it tested, and the contaminated ditches and streams should be avoided. Captain Ruy Lozano also tells ABC that the site of the fire itself is still producing smoke today and should be avoided as well.
- 500 Gallons of Pesticides at Houston Site Destroyed by Fire [ABC]
- HFD IDS Chemicals in Water After Massive Warehouse Fire in NW Houston [abc13]
- Red Mystery Liquid Leaks Into Drainage Ditch Near Massive Spring Branch Chemical Fire [Houston Press]
- Arson Investigators Working To Determine Cause of Warehouse Fire [KHOU]
- Previously on Swamplot: What’s On Fire in Spring Branch This Morning And Who the City Says Should Worry About It
Photo: Matthew Harkrider