Firefighters battle a petrochemical fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company Monday, March 18, 2019, in Deer Park, Texas. The large fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal will likely burn for another two days, authorities said Monday, noting that air quality around the facility was testing within normal guidelines. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Elevated benzene levels near Texas petrochemicals facility

March 21, 2019 - 9:02 am

HOUSTON (AP) — National Guard troops have been called in and residents are being told to say inside after elevated levels of benzene were detected near a Houston-area petrochemicals storage facility that caught fire this week.

Harris County officials said Thursday that the Guard and hazardous materials teams have established perimeters around the Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park.

The Texas Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that benzene levels near the facility didn't post a health concern. But authorities now say a shelter-in-place order following "reports of action levels of benzene or other volatile organic compounds" within Deer Park.

Several school districts also canceled classes for the day, citing "unfavorable air quality conditions."

The fire started Sunday, sending a huge, dark plume into the air, and spread to storage tanks holding components of gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner.

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