Post-Harvey Testing Reveals Higher Levels of Benzene, Other Chemicals

We're still learning the environmental impact of hurricane Harvey, and private testing shows at least one southeast Houston community saw higher levels of dangerous chemicals in the air following the storm.

Residents in Manchester reported a strong sent of “glue or boiled” eggs in the days after Harvey.  That's where Velero Energy reported rains had submerged a storage tank, releasing crude oil and the carcinogen benzene.

“The EPA has reported that Velero underreported the pounds of benzene that they've emitted, and we're still waiting for that number,” says Bakeya Nelson, executive director of Air Alliance Houston.

Higher levels of benzene also were found in Port Arthur.  However, the EPA won't release specific details, but was quick to point out the concentrations still met Texas health guidelines.

“High levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness and headaches,” says Nelson.  “In the long term, we know that benzene increases cancer risk.”

And she says the Manchester area already has higher-than-average rates of asthma, cancer and other illnesses.

“Butadiene, which increases cancer risk can also cause irritation to eyes, skin and lungs,” says Nelson.  “Hydrogen sulfide, high concentrations can cause sudden unconciousness, and sulfur dioxide has also been admitted as well.”

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