Hurricane Harvey’s toxic impact deeper than public told

More than a half-year after Hurricane Harvey flooded America’s largest corridor of energy and petrochemical plants, records show the storm’s environmental assault was more widespread and severe than authorities publicly acknowledged.

Piecing together county, state and federal records, The Associated Press and Houston Chronicle catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and air — in metropolitan Houston, America’s fourth-largest city.

Most were never publicized. Only a few were investigated by federal regulators [The EPA and state officials took 1,800 soil samples after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Scott Pruitt’s EPA: post-Harvey, soil and water sampling has been limited to 17 Superfund sites and some undisclosed industrial sites.]. State officials say they have investigated 89 incidents but have announced no enforcement actions.

Some 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of intertwined oil, gas and chemical pipelines line the corridor. Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one of these chemical plants.

The storm compromised chemical plants, refineries, and pipelines along Houston’s petrochemical corridor, bringing contaminated water, dirt, and air to surrounding neighborhoods. Carcinogens like benzene, vinyl chloride, and butadiene were released. In all but two cases, regulators did not inform the public of the spills or the risks they faced from exposure. Many affected plants are repeat environmental offenders.

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