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TCEQ monitoring air quality after second Valero fire in 6 months

A fire at the Valero West facility sent plumes of black smoke into the air Wednesday, a little more than 6 months after another fire released 'fugitive gases.'

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is at the Valero West refinery in Corpus Christi on Wednesday after a fire sent black smoke plumes into the air.

This comes six months after a fire at the Valero East facility, which is three miles away, where 10 fugitive gas emissions were released, which are gases they are not allowed to emit, according to a TCEQ report.

The fire at Valero East happened on November 2, 2022, and the report revealed emissions from the plant continued for 84 hours and 55 minutes. The smallest amount of fugitive gases released totaled around 1.5 pounds, all the way up to more than 821 pounds. About 2,951 pounds of sulfur dioxide were released --however, Valero's emission limit from its permit is less than two pounds.   

Thirty-two pounds of hydrogen sulfide were released -- breaking Valero's emissions limit, which is zero pounds. 

There is no information on what caused Wednesday's fire. The TCEQ and Corpus Christi Emergency Management officials are on-scene monitoring the air.

CCFD fire officials -- including new department chief Brandon Wade -- currently are at the scene. He said no injuries have been reported to his department, but that one of CCFD's medic units is at the scene as a precaution.

Wade told 3NEWS on Wednesday morning that his department has four trucks and a HAZMAT company outside the Valero refinery, and a command post has been set up.

He said monitoring air quality outside the refinery is important to make sure neither evacuations nor shelter in place orders are needed, based on the HAZMAT company's plume modeling.  

"Smoke travels, so smoke doesn't stay where its produced," he said. "Smoke will travel, so our goal and our job is to go out to see where the smoke is going. And then we do the air monitoring."

He said those once those assessments are complete, that if any community actions are needed, they will notify the community via avenues such as Reverse Alert and door knocks.

"Probably through a number of ways," he said.

He said there is no immediate timeline for those assessments to be complete.

Digital director Ana Tamez and multiskilled journalist Brandon Schaff contributed to this story. 


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