The petrochemical industry in Baytown, Texas, has caused much damage to the waterways. The recent hurricane Harvey disaster has highlighted the damage caused by Baytown’s waterways. This article examines how Baytown can help protect its waterways. It also explores the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Baytown Nature Center.
Environmental harm caused by Baytown’s petrochemical industry
Baytown has one of the largest petrochemical refineries in the country. The refinery was built in 1919 and is operated by Exxon. It has the fourth-highest production level in the U.S. and is the second-largest refinery in the world. The Exxon campus includes the refinery, two chemical plants, and an engineering office and technology center. In December 2021, the refinery was the site of a large explosion causing multiple injuries.
The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations sued ExxonMobil, a leading chemical manufacturer, for releasing millions of pounds of ozone-forming, toxic, and carcinogenic pollutants into Baytown, Texas. They argued that the company violated federal air pollution laws by releasing these pollutants into the atmosphere.
Earthjustice and the University of Texas
School of Law’s Environmental Clinic also filed amicus briefs in the case. Environmental harm caused by Baytown’s nefarious activities was made public after Hurricane Harvey destroyed the city’s petrochemical industry. After the storm, toxic chemicals and other substances were released into the atmosphere. The city’s water supply was contaminated with chemicals not designed to be released into the environment. The Baytown chemical plant is located east of Houston and on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.
The petrochemical industry is facing mounting concerns over water, air, and land pollution. The chemical industry produces single-use products that litter oceans and landfills. Exxon recently announced plans to build a massive plastic waste recycling facility in Baytown, TX. The recycling plant will be one of the largest in the country and will recycle plastic waste into chemical raw materials.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is investigating the fire at the Baytown Olefins plant. The company has not responded to a request for comment. The lawsuit claims that the company has violated the Clean Air Act. It also says that the company is at fault for the fire that raged on March 16.
ExxonMobil is making expansion plans at its Baytown petrochemical complex to meet the growing demand for petrochemicals. These chemicals are used in many industrial and household products. Demand for plastics is projected to increase to 350 million metric tons by 2050, up from 200 million metric tons today. This expansion project will also help the company increase the production of linear alpha olefins, the main ingredients in plastics, detergents, and adhesives. The company expects to complete the project by 2023. Reporters have documented several toxic releases. Most of these have not been publicized, and two releases were understated in their toxicity. Federal regulators have investigated only a handful of these incidents.
In Texas, more than eighty incidents have been investigated by regulators, but no enforcement actions have been announced. In many cases, spills were only tested for a few contaminants, and testing for toxins was limited to Superfund toxic waste sites.
Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Baytown’s waterways
The immense rainfall from the hurricane inundated industrial facilities, wastewater treatment plants, and superfund sites. The study also found that the pH level of Buffalo Bayou dropped to a low of 5.67 after the storm. Biologists suspect this happened because the soil near Houston’s flood reservoirs is acidic. The Army Corps of Engineers released the water into Galveston Bay, where the creatures living there are likely to have been stressed by the water’s acidity. Researchers continue to look for the effects of Hurricane Harvey on Baytown’s water bodies, but the findings are far from conclusive.
Another notable impact of Hurricane Harvey on Baytown’s waterbodies is the shutdown of Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery, located on the Houston Ship Channel. The refinery, the nation’s second-largest, was unable to operate due to extreme weather conditions. Other refineries in the region were also unable to operate due to the closed ship channels.
In particular, the storm caused severe flooding; it washed out waterways and flooded homes. The National Hurricane Center’s 76-page report also highlights new numbers and facts. The research team says that post-1980 climate warming may have contributed to the extreme precipitation in southeast Texas.
While the results aren’t precise, it’s possible that the storm caused a layer of petroleum sediment to wash up on top of topsoil, making it more likely for the contaminants to be displaced further downstream. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has opened several investigations into the issue. However, its response to the Houston-area storm has been limited compared to the response to two previous significant hurricanes. During Hurricane Ike, state regulators collected 85 soil samples. Those samples were reviewed and identified 12 violations.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has been in touch with the owners of 340 dams in the affected area and has already identified 17 of those dams as damaged. The agency continues to receive updates on cleanup efforts. In the meantime, the TCEQ is also monitoring 17 state Superfund sites.
Impact of Baytown Nature Center
The Baytown Nature Center is located in Baytown, Texas, just 20 miles east of Houston. The facility sits on a 450-acre peninsula along the Houston Ship Channel, surrounded by Crystal Bay, Scott Bay, and Burnet Bay. The park offers a unique opportunity for visitors to observe nature in close quarters.
However, the Baytown Nature Center has a controversial history. It is not entirely clear why the Port of Houston chose this location to build a wetland restoration project. Houston has more than 500 chemical processing plants and ten oil refineries. In addition to that, there are 21 Superfund sites in the area, seven of which were inundated by Hurricane Harvey. During the resulting flooding, approximately half a billion gallons of chemical processing waste were spilled into Houston Ship Channel, which is likely to wash up on the Baytown Nature Center.
The Baytown Nature Center is an essential destination for migratory and local birds. It draws more than 300 species of birds annually. Residents lobbied for the creation of the Center to benefit birdwatching and eco-tourism in the community. In addition, the Nature Center is part of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail. Despite its location in suburban development, the Baytown Nature Center is embedded in the history of Baytown. It represented countless abandoned communities and rehabilitated natural areas. The Center’s mission is to conserve these remnants of our heritage while providing a place for visitors to observe nature at work. In addition to Baytown Nature Center, the area is home to the Baytown Water Park and the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center.
Baytown Environmental Conservation
Those interested in environmental conservation can also enjoy the Baytown Art and Culture District. It also boasts a booming industrial base, with ExxonMobil, Chevron Phillips, and Enterprise Products, among many others. Baytown has a diverse population. The city’s racial makeup in 2019 was estimated at 47 percent
Latino, 32 percent non-Hispanic white, 17 percent Black, two percent Asian, and two percent mixed-race residents.
In addition, the Park and Recreation Department sponsors various special events and activities for the community. Baytown has four wastewater treatment plants that discharge treated effluent into local waterways. Three of them flow into the Trinity and Galveston Bays. The Cedar Bayou watershed contains high levels of bacteria. The San Jacinto River is also affected by Baytown’s wastewater discharge.
The Lawyers at Adley Law Firm will fight for your justice. Call our lawyers today at (713) 999-8669 or schedule a free consultation.