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Small fires, smoke reported at TPC Group plant following 7-day incident

"This morning, we have identified small fires in the impacted area on site. These small residual fires were anticipated and are being contained."

PORT NECHES, Texas — The Unified Command reported small fires and smoke at the TPC Group plant this morning. The Unified Command says these fires were anticipated and are being contained.

Although smoke is visible, the response group says plans are underway to safely transfer all remaining materials from the site.

Unified Command news release 12/6/2019

News Release # 18-Reponse Teams Continue to Monitor and Assess

Beaumont, Texas – Unified Command reports ongoing response efforts at TPC Group Port Neches Operations remain focused on safely bringing the event to an end.

Situational update: Response efforts continue to focus on activities to secure site equipment and minimize impact to the environment, while preserving the safety of emergency responders. This morning, we have identified small fires in the impacted area on site. These small residual fires were anticipated and are being contained. Response teams continue to monitor and assess. Smoke may be visible.

As reported previously, the fire impacted 12 tanks on site. Plans are underway to safely transfer all remaining materials from the site, based on mechanical integrity inspections of tank. All tanks containing materials are being evaluated and prioritized for transfer. To further secure and safely transfer remaining materials from the site, technical experts with TPC Group will introduce inhibitors to stabilize materials being transferred. Options to safely transport materials from the site are being assessed.

 Air Monitoring update: On Thursday, following the identification of a probable source of butadiene in the air and air monitoring measurements, responders on site repaired a leaking pressure relief valve on an impacted tank. Air monitoring around the site and in the community immediately showed significant reductions of butadiene levels following this repair operation. Unified Command remains diligent in efforts to monitor air quality around the site and in the community. Unified Command, comprised of federal, state, local agencies and TPC Group, has been conducting stationary and roaming air monitoring since the event occurred, and will continue to do so through the course of the response. Nearly 100 environmental experts, representing multiple agencies and groups, are on this response in the community performing air assessments at numerous locations with more than 40 active stationary air monitors. Monitoring coverage extends throughout the county and is providing real-time air quality data to Unified Command.

Occasional elevated air measurements may continue to register as response teams secure the site. Since 5:30 p.m. yesterday (Thursday), experts with the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH), contracted by TPC Group, have collected readings from more than 3,000 air samples. Only two of the readings measuring elevated concentrations (0.5 and 0.7 ppm) of butadiene were sustained for five to seven minutes, then quickly dissipated. Short-term exposure to concentrations less than 10 ppm for one hour or less is not expected to produce health effects other than mild, reversible irritation.

As a reminder, breathing or inhaling airborne butadiene can cause sensory irritation or temporary discomfort and nuisance-type health impacts. Butadiene levels detected near the facility and in the community throughout the course of this event have remained far below levels that could contribute to long-term health risk.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is partnering with the EPA as a third-party resource dedicated to reviewing the environmental data provided by Unified Command and will communicate findings once they are available.

 Claims activities update: Approximately 200 claims representatives, including call center operators, field claim adjusters and claims processors, remain in the area. Field claim adjusters are in the field from 8:00 a.m. to one hour before sundown daily in the areas of highest impact. Claims are divided into two general categories: (1) evacuation-related claims cover lodging and meals/incidental expenses and (2) property/personal property damage claims cover damages to homes and other personal property.

Claims Processing Centers at 511 Grigsby Ave. in Port Neches and 250 Dowlen Rd. in Beaumont are completing claims by appointment from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily. Residents can submit claims and schedule appointments to meet with claims representatives by calling the Community Assistance Helpline at (866) 601-5880.

Evacuation claims information: To get a head start on the Evacuation Claim Form, residents may click on this link and complete the form online and submit supporting documentation. This form is for residents who were in designated evacuation areas and have not already completed an Evacuation Claim form with a claims representative. Completing the online form in advance can help expedite the claims process.

Property claims information: Claims adjusters are conducting damage inspections in the high impact areas. Claims processing center personnel are making calls and scheduling appointments for the medium and low impact areas. Residents are requested to have the following information with them when submitting property-related claims (by phone or in-person):

A Photo ID (driver’s license, passport, U.S. Military ID) and oneof the following address verification documents for adults listed in the household is required:

Mail, lease/mortgage payment, utility bill, voter registration card, property tax records The helpline continues to experience a high volume of calls. We sincerely appreciate callers' patience and understanding.

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