The towns of La Porte (with about 34,000 residents) and Shoreacres (about 1,500 residents) have been placed under a chemical release warning. Residents have been advised to stay home and turn off their air conditioning and heating units.
Reportedly, the leak came from the Valero petroleum refinery plant on the outskirts of Houston. It occurred near Highways 225 and 146.
Per City of Shoreacres: Chemical release notice. Shelter in place. Stay inside. Close windows/doors. Turn off air conditioning/ventilation.— Harris County OHSEM (@ReadyHarris) August 28, 2017
SB Hartman Bridge Closed!!!!shelter in place in LaPorte for a chemical leak. We will open lanes once all clear.— City of Baytown (@CityofBaytown) August 28, 2017
Residents have been reporting "headaches, sore throat, scratchy throat and itchy eyes," according to Mother Jones.
La Porte is approximately 26 miles away from Houston, while nearby Shoreacres is 32 miles away.
According to a 2012 report from the Environmental Integrity Project, the sudden shutdown of oil and natural gas plants "can release large plumes of sulfur dioxide or toxic chemicals in just a few hours, exposing downwind communities to peak levels of pollution that are much more likely to trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory systems."
The area struck by Hurricane Harvey encapsulates refineries responsible “for roughly 25 percent of the United States’s petroleum refining, more than 44 percent of its ethylene production, 40 percent of its specialty chemical feed stock and more than half of its jet fuel,” according to the New York Times.