Over the course of 2019, there have been a number of industry safety incidents that are uncharacteristic for our industry. There have been serious concerns voiced by Harris County as well as community members regarding these incidents and the safety of our 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 have presented 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 that were negotiated between industry and Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia (Precinct 2). Specifically, the purchase of one new Auto Gas Chromatography stationery monitor to be located in in the Bayport / Seabrook. This area was identified in Harris County’s Gap Analysis as deficient in air monitoring resources.
The grant also provides designated funding for hand-held air monitors that will be provided to trained emergency responders (police/fire) in the region as well as funds for equipment calibration and training.
Finally, the grant includes funding to support the engagement of the Houston Area Research Council (HARC) to analyze, interpret, and communicate air monitoring during an emissions events that may adversely affect air quality for the public. This effort is intended to 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 response 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,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “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,” he continued.
“The chemical industry is deeply integrated into the communities and economies of Harris County. Our companies take their responsibility to be good neighbors very seriously,” said Chris Jahn, President and CEO of ACC.
“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.”
“Industry values the partnership with Harris County, especially Commissioner Garcia in Precinct 2 where many of our industry facilities operate,” said Hector Rivero, President of TCC. “Our members are committed to working with Harris County and the local cities, and developing a model that will enhance similar collaborative working relationships in the region and across the nation.”
In addition to the $1 million grant, the industry group is also proposing to provide Harris County with specific air monitor data that can help inform public health and safety decisions in the event of an incident. Additionally, industry will develop an “Industry 101” program that can help educate government officials and first responders about industry facilities and operations.
“This is a significant first step toward ensuring Harris County becomes a national model and leads the way in collaboration between industry, community organizations and government to promote a healthy and economically strong area. Together we can work to ensure our residents feel safe, engaged and educated about our industry neighbors,” said Commissioner Garcia.