Over the course of last year, there were a series of industry safety incidents in the Houston area that caused great concern for businesses and residents alike, according to the Association of Chemical Industry of Texas.

Along those lines, there have been concerns voiced by Harris County as well as community members regarding these incidents and the safety of operations in the region. In response to these concerns, members of the Texas Chemical Council (TCC), East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA), and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) initiated a process to identify opportunities to enhance a variety of protocols and processes that support safe operations and strong emergency preparedness and response performance.

Thanks to a grant by the American Chemistry Council Foundation, TCC, ECHMA, and ACC awarded a $1 million grant to Harris County to further enhance the region’s air monitoring capabilities.

The grant is prescribed for specific uses by the county negotiated between industry and Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. Specifically, the purchase of one new Auto Gas Chromatography stationery monitor to be located in the Bayport/Seabrook area. This area was identified in Harris County’s Gap Analysis as deficient in air monitoring resources.

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The grant also provides funding for hand-held air monitors provided to trained emergency responders (police/fire) as well as funds for equipment calibration and training.

In addition, the grant includes funding to engage the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) to analyze, interpret, and communicate air monitoring during an emissions events. This should provide a balanced and credible third party to help interpret and communicate air monitoring data during an industrial incident.

Earlier this year, Harris County initiated a “Gap Analysis” to identify areas of improvement for the county to respond to industrial emergencies and to assure the public regarding air quality during and after these events.

“This grant is a result of conversations that began in the wake of a series of industrial incidents in Precinct 2. We learned how potentially vulnerable our industry partners were and that more needed to be done to ensure their success and not their failure,” Garcia said. “Residents need access to reliable and timely air-quality data at all times, and especially during a chemical emergency. Thanks to this collaboration, the county will be able to address data and communications gaps to ensure residents have the information they need to make decisions about what actions to take for their families’ wellbeing in the unfortunate event dangerous chemicals are released.”

“Chemical manufacturers operating in Harris County have high standards of operational safety and environmental performance. Process Safety Management ideals and lessons learned have helped industry continuously improve safety performance over the past several decades,” said Gary Piana, chair of the EHCMA board. “Through this grant, we are pledging to both Harris County and the citizens of east Harris County that we are committed to making further enhancements to our safety performance, communication and transparency.”

In addition to the $1 million grant, the industry group will also provide Harris County with specific air monitor data that can help inform public health and safety decisions in the event of an incident. The industry will also develop an “Industry 101” program that can help educate government officials and first responders about industry facilities and operations.

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