A petrochemical company has applied for air permits for expanding its butadiene production in Houston.

The extremely explosive gas, which is also known as a carcinogen, is used in the production of synthetic rubber products such as car tyres.

But the TPC Group’s plan to expand in the East End will result in significant levels of hazardous air pollution.

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Loren Hopkins, the city’s chief environmental scientist said: “It’s a really big problem, because the concentrations are so high that they’re posing a risk by themselves without expanding the facility.”

The Houston Health Department has reviewed data from the Milby Park and Cesar Chavez air monitors.

The Milby Park monitor recorded an average 1,3 butadiene levels of around 2 parts per billion in 2021.

This is a considerable rise from 2020 and 2019, when average levels were less than 1 ppb.

It is also higher above the official health screening threshold for cancer.

Several environmental groups claim that TPC consistently breaches environmental rules and has a history of chemical burns and excessive pollution.

In November 2019, a large explosion at TPC’s Port Neches facility’s butadiene processing unit shook the neighboring area, destroying houses and forcing an emergency evacuation.

The Houston facility has also had its fair share of accidents, including a fire in 2018 and a flaring event in 2020 that blasted a cloud of black smoke into the air.

The Houston Plant has likewise been in breach of the Clean Air Act for the previous three years.

A TPC representative said the company’s application to expand in Houston meets health and environmental standards set by the state and highlighted the effort the facility has made to reduce emissions since 2004.

“The Houston plant has a good history of compliance with applicable requirements and we’re confident operations at the site will continue to be safe and compliant,” the company wrote in a statement.

Source: Houston Public Media

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