Incident at Dow Chemical plant in Texas forces evacuation of nearby town

A “shelter in place” warning issued by authorities in Texas following an incident at a Dow Chemical plant in La Porte. (Office of Emergency Management in La Porte)
A “shelter in place” warning issued by authorities in Texas following an incident at a Dow Chemical plant in La Porte. (Office of Emergency Management in La Porte)

A mishap at a Dow Chemical plant in Texas resulted in the issuing of evacuation orders for residents of nearby La Porte.

On Wednesday, La Porte's fire department issued an evacuation for anyone living within a .5 mile radius of the plant. Affected residents were told to evacuate immediately and to follow the instructions of first responders in the area.

A shelter in place order was also given for residents east of the bay area in La Porte. The Office of Emergency Management in La Porte issued a statement advising people to immediately go into their homes and to turn off their air conditioners.

Anyone driving during the lockdown period was asked to keep their windows rolled up and their air conditioners off.

Dow Chemical issued a statement claiming that a "process upset" incident occurred at the facility, prompting the lockdown.

“We are coordinating with local officials, and working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” Dow Chemical said in a statement. “Stay tuned to local officials for more information.”

According to The Houston Chronicle, a tank wagon over-pressurized, rupturing the tank's vent. Harris County's Pollution Control office said that the incident involves a chemical called Hydroxyethyl Acrylate.

According to a safety data sheet provided by Dow Chemical, the hazardous compound can cause "severe irritation" to the nose and throat if too much is inhaled. It can burn human skin and eyes.

The chemical was reportedly released around 7.30am and continued until around 8.48am.

According to the company, the chemicals were not detected near the fence line or beyond the plant.

The emergency orders caused summer school students at nearby Bayshore Elementary to evacuate the campus, according to school administrators.

“For your safety and the safety of the children, we are asking that you leave students in our care for the time being,” the school district said in a statement. “We believe the shelter-in-place will be lifted soon, and reunification will occur at Bayshore Elementary School. We will keep you updated as information becomes available.”

The district said the students were kept out of harms way in a building at the school.

“Many students who were already at school are safe and secure at our Support Services Building,” the district’s statement said. “When the shelter-in-place is lifted, we will return those students home.”

An “all-clear” order was issued slightly before 12pm.

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