The Road of Refineries
I live in small city in the outskirts of LaPorte called Shoreacres, it is a small section of neighborhoods between old 146 and new 146. This neighborhood has a connecting street that goes down the middle named Shoreacres Blvd. then it turns into Choate Rd. once you’ve went underneath the highway. Choate Rd. is a .6-mile-long road which brings you into the chemical plant/refinery area, located on that road are 3 chemical plants: Zeon Chemicals, Septon-Kuraray and Athlon solutions and 1 trucking industry, McKenzie Tank Lines. These plants lead up to the intersection of Choate and Bay Area Blvd., which if you turn either right or left you will be surrounded by chemical plants for the next few miles. Just leaving my neighborhood you see the top of the refineries that puff out smoke and only 2 miles out you have passed by 5 chemical plants. If you go to the left leaving my house, going toward Kemah, you will run into Port Rd. This road has around 5-6 chemical plants but is mostly where 18-wheelers load and unload containers from the Port. So not only is there an abnormal amount of Chemical plants in my area but there are also huge amounts of 18-wheelers and pollution from the ships that dock at the port. Below is just a small overview of the chemical plants around me.
(The green dot is my house, this map only includes chemical plants, not refineries or any other high pollutant source)
Because Houston is such a huge refined area there are so many point and nonpoint sources air pollutants. In 2005 The City of Houston found that there was a high amount of carcinogen in the air and pin pointed the areas with the highest amount of carcinogenic pollution, the results showed that the areas with the highest pollution were from Channelview, Deer Park, Galena Park, Texas City. I just so happen to live right in between Deer Park and Texas City. In 2003 The City of Houston found that Petro Chemicals off Port road before El Jardin, a mile away from my house, was releasing 1,3-butadiene in such high levels that an extra 200 million would more than likely get cancer if exposed to often in their lifetime. 1,3-Butadiene is used to make synthetics and rubber goods, Petro Chemicals makes rubber tires to supply Good Year, but it also effects the female reproductive system and has been liked to leukemia. The reason why this location was highly investigated is because close by is a park, which is a where young kids and their families would spend many days a week there for soccer practices and games. With to the high amounts of 1,3-Butadiene that was found they had to intervene so the kids that go to that park aren’t exposed because they are more susceptible to illness due to dose and body weight.
When the City of Houston studied what the air pollution was compromised of, they found that because of the large amounts of traffic, high quantity of 18-wheelers and heavy duty construction vehicle there is a high amount of fine particulate matter and diesel particulate matter. They also stated that other than particulate matter the highest pollution percentages are ground ozone and nine other hazardous pollutants, 1,3-Butadiene Chromium VI, Benzene, Ethylene Dibromide, Acrylonitrile, Formaldehyde, Acrolein, Chlorine, Hexamethylene Diisocyanate. Out of the 10 that I wrote about 7 have cancer endpoints. The City of Houston found out that the ambient concentrations of ground level ozone and particulate matter are causing respiratory effects in individuals, and in some cases premature death. With the knowledge of the polluted environment the City of Houston has tried to help decrease emission from motor vehicles, in 2015 they passed an anti-idling ordinance in order to help reduce air pollution from high polluting vehicles. With the new technology the city can use the leverage they have to fun new types of tools that help identify idling hotspots and can find ways to reduce idling emissions. Even with the new bills that have been passed Houston has not seen better days, this year we have had 26 days with unhealthy levels of ozone or smog which surpasses the total from last year. Also, this year the Kuraray chemical plant that is located less than a mile away from me caught fire earlier this year in May, supposedly nothing was leaked but the huge fire was put out with minimal injuries. Two months after that, a Houston monitor recorded one of the worst smog days since 2013.
As much as I wish that the air quality was getting better, I now know that it is actually the opposite. In the beginning of 2018 newly appointed EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, overturned a policy from 1995 known as “once in, always in” in which all major air polluters, such as chemical plants and factories will always be regulated under strict standards, even in they are successful in decreasing pollution. Pruitt’s decision has now made easier for the big polluting companies to get out from the stricter standards they once fell under, which impacts 18 corporation in the Houston-Galveston area. Two of those companies are located in LaPorte Geon-Oxy Vinyl and Equistar Chemical Complex, these companies emitted approximately 183 tons of hazardous air pollutants in 2014, which is the most recent study done on air quality. If these companies use this “loophole” to its maximum capacity, then the amount will increase to 140% which is about 400 tons more. The hazardous air pollutants that are emitted from these facilities are hydrochloric acid, lead, mercury and benzene, so 100 tons of each hazardous material is exposed to everyone in the area.
Hurricane Harvey was also a turning point for a lot of things, it opened Houstonians eyes to many things that they were very unaware of before and one of those things is how much pollution was pumped into the air. During hurricane Harvey there was 8.3 million pounds of pollution that was released into the air due to industrial plants having an emergency shut down, which were mostly due to rapid flash flooding and sudden power outages. These large-scale shut downs could have been avoided because hurricane Harvey was not a surprise and many counties were ready for the crazy weather ahead. The governor of Texas also declared Houston a state of disaster two days before Harvey hit so they had plenty of time to regroup and should have been prepared for a planned shut-down. During the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, the state decided to suspend reports that were regarding pollution, so we have no clue how much pollution was really released into the environment. Not only did Harvey impact our coastal prairie and wetland environment, it also impacted our air pollution. Which makes you wonder if the chemical plants and refineries were aware that they would not have to report what they were pumping into the air because nobody was outside for a week during the hurricane and because of the leniency from the government. This would give the chemical plants the chance to burn essentially whatever they wanted because there couldn’t be a shelter in place mid hurricane when everybody in the area was already trapped in doors by the flooding waters.
All my life I’ve lived in LaPorte but never as close as I am now, when I was younger, I use to be fascinated by how huge the chemical plants were and I thought the road was one huge chemical plant that went on forever. I now know the obvious that the road is multiple chemical plants every couple of miles. Even though I live close to this portion of Bay Area I’ve never had a health problem, not even allergies so the effects that are happening around me may be very minimal or it could be chronic toxicity and catch up to me in the long run. I feel like I am less prone to health problems than another LaPorte citizen who might have a lower immune system or that tends to stay in LaPorte year-round. I also don’t know of many other people who have respiratory issues, but I know that if any of my family members started having respiratory problems then a portion of it, I feel would have been caused by the air pollution in the area because respiratory issues don’t run in my family. I guess I will tell in a few years when I compare my heath to my cousin who lives in New Mexico where there are very few refineries, usually they are far away from cities near smaller towns.
Atkin, Emily. “More Than 1 Million Pounds of Chemical Plant Emissions Have Been Reported Since Harvey Hit.” CityLab, 31 Aug. 2017, www.citylab.com/environment/2017/08/harvey-houston-chemical-plants-emissions/538476/.
Carbonell, Tomas, et al. “Pruitt’s New Air Toxics Loophole An Assessment of Potential Air Pollution Impacts in the Houston-Galveston Region .” Environmental Defense Fund, EDF, www.edf.org/sites/default/files/documents/OIAI-Houston case study FINAL.pdf.
Grenoble, Ryan. “Houston Faces Another Threat: Damaged Refineries Spewing Toxic Fumes.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 Aug. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/houston-harvey-refinery-toxic-pollution_us_59a45a30e4b06d67e3397f2e.
Nelson, Bakeyah. “Houston Has Fallen behind on Fighting Air Pollution.” HoustonChronicle.com, Houston Chronicle, 13 Sept. 2018, www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Houston-has-fallen-behind-on-fighting-air-13225434.php.
Stuckey, Alex. “Air Pollution in Houston/Galveston Region Could Increase under EPA-Created Loophole, Study Finds.” San Antonio Express-News, Express-News, 10 Apr. 2018, www.mysanantonio.com/news/science-environment/article/Air-pollution-in-Houston-Galveston-region-could-12822280.php.
“What Are the Sources of Air Pollution in Houston?” Air Quality Houston, houstonairquality.com/what-are-the-sources-of-air-pollution-in-houston/