Are Houston's Petrochemicals Safe From Hurricanes?

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) - Hurricane Ike had had the makings of an
environmental nightmare unlike anything in U.S. history when it
approached the upper Texas Gulf Coast's petrochemical complex.
That didn't happen. Ike's storm surge was less severe than
feared and floodwalls, levees and bulkheads built around the
region's heavy industry generally held. Some hazardous material
spilled, but nothing to cause the widespread environmental damage
some feared.
But many of the plants and refineries are protected by a
1960s-era, 15-foot-high levee system built by the Army Corps of
Engineers. That levee system is strikingly similar to the one
around New Orleans that failed catastrophically during Katrina.
The shortcomings are plain to see. For example, Texas City is
home to seven massive facilities run by industry giants like Dow
Chemical, BP and Valero. It's surrounded by a ring levee system
that includes earthen levees without erosion-control concrete, long
stretches of floodwalls similar to those that failed during Katrina
and a mishmash of levee heights.
The Corps of Engineers says it's aware of the danger, but it
says neither Congress nor local authorities have shown much
interest in getting it to study building an improved system.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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