Port Arthur, Texas – Unified Command, under the direction of Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, and comprised of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management and TPC Group, today announced it will stand down the interagency command structure following the achievement of several key milestones to further secure the affected area at TPC Group Port Neches Operations.
The interagency Unified Command structure was formed on November 27, 2019 to coordinate response efforts at the site. Unified Command was comprised of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management and TPC Group.
“This is a significant milestone in the community’s and TPC Group’s progress towards recovery. Our focus has always been on community and site safety in protection of health and the environment, and those objectives continue to be met. My sincere thanks and appreciation go to the first responders who have dedicated themselves to our community’s safety and protection throughout the response,” said Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick. “TPC Group has a highly skilled and dedicated team managing the response efforts and they have demonstrated the capability and competency to manage this event and bring it safely to an end.”
Unified Command is typically established in emergency situations to provide a coordinated and uniform response structure to ensure a consistent approach to addressing incidents. Although public agencies represented in Unified Command continue to be involved in matters related to the event, such as investigations, environmental monitoring assessments and planning updates, the need for Unified Command is no longer required as incident command is transferred to TPC Group.
“The stand down of Unified Command does not indicate the event is over; however, it is a major milestone in our response to further secure the facility. We are focused on safely bringing the event to an end, while preserving the safety of emergency responders and the community and minimizing impact to the environment,” said Troy Monk, emergency operations manager for TPC Group. “The work we are doing today to de-inventory materials from the site and further secure the facility is setting the foundation for site recovery. We have appreciated the assistance from our partner agencies throughout this response effort. The collective support, expertise and resources from them and contracted response specialists has been instrumental in this complex response effort.”
Milestones achieved to date include:
• Nearly 50 percent of the materials in tanks and equipment onsite has been transferred offsite, including the completion of transfer of high concentration 1,3 butadiene
o The transfer of lower concentration butadiene material, raffinate, polyblend and other process materials will commence next
• Extensive air monitoring has detected no actionable levels of VOCs or 1,3 butadiene in the community for more than 45 days
• Water monitoring has detected no exceedance of screening values for drinking water and surface water
Response efforts continue to focus on activities to secure the site and minimize impact to environment, while preserving the safety of emergency responders and the community.
Looking forward, milestones to be achieved in the next phase of the response effort include:
• Complete the current de-inventory phase with the transfer of low concentration butadiene material, raffinate, polyblend and other process materials to further secure the site and safely transfer all remaining materials
• Re-establish capability of site utilities, including nitrogen, permanent electrical power and potable water
• Complete evaluations and assessments of tanks, piping and equipment in the affected area to determine equipment preservation and restoration strategies
TPC Group air monitoring coverage, conducted by contracted environmental response specialists, will continue to include 10 stationary monitors at the fence line, 17 stationary monitors inside the fence line and 15 roaming air monitors inside the fence line. Based on the continued ‘non-detect’ readings in the community and the continued monitoring at the fence line, the radius of community monitoring will be reduced to the site perimeter. Monitoring teams will remain ready to respond in the community should there be a need.
Notable statistics on the response effort to date include:
• More than 20 federal, state and local organizations were represented
• More than 2,570 people participated in the response effort, including first responders, emergency responders, and environmental and remediation specialists
• Experts have collected more than 158,000 air monitoring readings in the community with no actionable levels of VOCs or 1,3 butadiene detected in the community for more than 45 days
• More than 270 surface water/drinking water samples have been collected at 21 different locations with no exceedance of screening values detected
TPC Group will continue to manage inquiries via the official response website at www.portnechesresponse.com, as well as through established social media channels on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PortNechesUC and Twitter (@PortNechesUC).
Residents are also encouraged to register for updates from the Southeast Texas Alerting Network (STAN). Call 1-877-843-7826 (toll-free) anytime to hear important alerts and notifications or visit www.thestan.com to register for notifications.