Oil and gas facilities along Texas' Gulf Coast released 5.46 million pounds of air pollutants due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey late last month, an environmental watchdog group reports.
The Center for Biological Diversity compiled the data from company reports to Texas environmental regulators. The numbers reflected emissions through the end of August and will likely climb when subsequent reports are filed, the group said.
“Oil-industry facilities spewed thousands of tons of toxic chemicals into defenseless communities, despite ample warning about hurricane risk to this area,” CBD scientist Shaye Wolf said in a statement.
The hurricane inundated the Houston area with some of the highest rainfall totals on record and prompted high-profile explosions and leaks from several facilities in south Texas -- one of the nation's petrochemical and refining hubs.
CBD analysts said that although some air pollution was released due to tank roof failures, most resulted from routine shutdown and startup procedures that used flaring.
The study added that seven hazardous chemicals linked to cancer and other health risks — including benzene, sulfur dioxide and toluene — accounted for 951,000 pounds of released pollutants.
“Dangerous flaring from coastal refineries has become routine during major storms," Wolf said. "The petroleum industry seems utterly unwilling to take responsibility for operating safely, even as climate change makes storms like Harvey more destructive.”