Statement by U.S. PIRG Toxics Program Director Kara Cook-Schultz.
TexPIRG and U.S. PIRG are calling on the state of Texas to be more forthcoming about the gasoline spill that Hurricane Harvey caused in the Houston suburb of Galena Park.
We just found out today that 11 times more gasoline was spilled into the Houston shipping channel than state regulators quietly reported last week. That toxic gasoline could have been spread by floodwaters into residential neighborhoods in the area, and the public deserves to know if that happened.
One major concern: local waterways head to the Houston shipping channel. That connects to the Gulf of Mexico, and the channel’s tendrils are spread throughout neighborhoods in the eastern parts of Houston. That much spilt gasoline could travel a long way and contaminate a lot of water in a short amount of time.
People around Houston are cleaning up after the floods. As they try to rebuild their lives, they ought to know exactly how much gasoline was spilled, where it is now, how the state is containing it, and whether they should worry about any ongoing public health threats.
Exposure to gasoline in drinking water or from breathing in gasoline fumes can be a health concern. Chemicals in gasoline (including benzene and MTBE) are associated with cancer, including leukemia. And medical experts have connected gasoline spills with neurological problems, allergic reactions, and breathing problems.
We know regulators can do more. In July 2017, a pipeline owned by this same company spilled thousands of barrels of oil onto the ground in Texas and the federal regulator in charge of investigating the spill (the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) was investigating the scene and making public comments by the next day. State regulators in Texas could do the same. They owe it to Texans already under hardship from Harvey to notify the public about the size and effects of this gasoline spill.
U.S. PIRG is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.