The Environmental Protection Agency said it was also focusing on “an area of potential concern” linked to emissions from a Valero facility. E.P.A. air monitoring buses would continue to test pollution levels around the Valero refinery and others in the area as they start back up, David Gray, an agency spokesman, said in a statement.
Manchester, a low-income neighborhood hemmed in by two freeways, a shipping lane and the Valero refinery, has long suffered from industrial pollution. Researchers have found elevated levels of childhood leukemia in several areas in Houston, including Manchester, a plight blamed on high levels of chemicals in the air.
Valero Energy, a refiner based in San Antonio, had told local regulators that a floating roof covering a tank at its Houston refinery sank on Aug. 27 in the heavy rains brought by Harvey, causing benzene to leak into the air. The leak lasted only until the next day, Valero had said in its filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Since Aug. 23, 31 facilities in 10 counties have reported an estimated 4.5 million pounds of excess emissions to the commission, an analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund and Environment Texas shows.
Lillian Riojas, a Valero spokeswoman, said that a “hurricane ride-out crew” of Valero workers had made sure that the oil that escaped from the roof was “quickly contained” and that “cleanup is well underway.” Valero was coordinating with both federal and local environmental regulators to monitor any emissions from the oil, she said.
Benzene, a toxic, flammable chemical found in crude oil and gasoline, is known to cause central nervous system damage and bone marrow damage, and is carcinogenic.
Elena Craft, a senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense…