March 21 (UPI) -- One city has lifted its shelter in place order after elevated levels of benzene and other volatile organic compounds were detected near the petrochemical plant that burned near Houston.
At 11:40 a.m. local time, the city of Deer Park said on Twitter that it had lifted its shelter in place order. The nearby city of Galena Park indicated about an hour later city workers were still "actively performing air monitoring in the city."
Seven school districts and the San Jacinto College campus closed earlier Thursday.
The fire at the chemical storage plant burned for four days, spewing thick black smoke into the air before it was extinguished early Wednesday. Authorities said there were no health concerns for the first several days.
That changed Thursday when authorities detected VOCs, prompting Deer Park, where the Intercontinental Terminals Co. facility is located, and Galena Park to issue shelter in place orders for residents.
"Residents are advised to remain indoors and to close all doors, windows and other sources of outside air," Deer Park said in a statement. "Turn off air conditioning or heating systems and close the fireplace damper to keep chemical vapors from entering. Please continue to monitor city outlets for updated information."
ITC officials said the benzene levels are below levels that pose an "immediate risk."
"ITC responders are working actively to reduce the cause that may be responsible for the elevated readings," the company said in a statement. "The safety and well-being of the surrounding communities, our employees, our first responders and the environment continue to be our top priorities and we remain committed to providing information as it develops."
ITC encouraged anyone with health concerns or symptoms that could be related to this incident to call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 or a personal physician.
Houston ISD remains open, though schools near the Deer Park plant will hold activities indoors.
School is canceled for today, March 21, due to unfavorable air quality conditions based on current monitoring results in parts of the District. Go to https://t.co/0VaRTMAbaG for more details.- Deer Park ISD (@DPISD) March 21, 2019