Fumes escape from refinery tank - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Fumes escape from refinery tank

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Total refinery says heavy rains are to blame for exposing a highly flammable product into the air. 

No evacuations have been called and Total is still monitoring the air quality after receiving reports Tuesday of a suspicious odor in the air.

That smell was coming from a tank that exposed naphtha to the open air when rain on the tank's lid caused it to tilt.

Naphtha is used in gasoline, and it can be dangerous to breath in if enough gets out in the open.

Total says they have been closely monitoring the air, and people who live nearby say they always have to be prepared for these situations.  

The smell of refineries is nothing new to Mark Spell whose home sits right outside Total, but this week he smelled something different.

"I was driving the kids to school, and I smelled it that morning," says Spell. "The smell, it's a different kind of smell."
     Total says reports just like that started coming in at 9:30 Tuesday morning after heavy rains.

 Total says the tank that exposed the product inside has a floating roof. When heavy rains sat on top of that roof it tilted, and fumes escaped.

Port Neches Groves School District Superintendent Dr. Rodney Cavness says Groves Elementary went on lock down when the principal smelled the fumes.

They were given the all clear later that day after Total and the Port Arthur Fire Department decided the air quality wasn't dangerous.

"You're living in this area, and it's inevitable you're going to be around it," says one resident, Curtis Roberts. "It doesn't make a difference whether you're a kid of you're 99 years old."

While Total works to drain the tank, the emergency response team is monitoring the air and spraying fire suppressant foam on the tank.

The public hasn't been asked to take action, but Spell says he stays prepared.
"You never know when one of them is going to explode so we stay cautious all the time," says Spell.

Total says they have the situation under control, and its main priority is the safety of employees and the community.

There is a way to make sure you get notifications about emergency situations if evacuations are ever needed. 

You can go to your city web site and sign up for the emergency notification system to get a phone call notifying you if you ever need to take action.