Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's that smell?

TEXAS CITY, Texas — A smell similar to rotten eggs enveloped Texas City about 5 p.m. Monday afternoon after a leak from a subunit at BP’s Texas City refinery.

Workers were doing maintenance work on a sour water compressor on the refinery’s Power 2 unit when workers noticed a smell after a piece of equipment failed, company spokesman Michael Marr said. The odor, which forced some businesses on Palmer Highway about 13 blocks from the refinery to shutter their doors and close windows, lasted more than an hour.

The smell is believed to come from liquid in the subunit that contained hydrogen sulfide, which is a hazardous chemical that has a strong smell of rotten eggs, Texas City Homeland Security Director Bruce Clawson said. The Texas City Fire Department and BP industrial hygienists conducted ground-level air monitoring and did not find any readings of hazardous chemicals in the air, Clawson said.

Between one and two barrels of sour water — which is waste water that contains hydrocarbons and is pumped to an enclosed sewer system for disposal — spilled, causing the offensive odor, officials said.

There was not a shelter in place order for the city, but Clawson issued a phone and e-mail alert to residents notifying them of the situation.

There was a brief shelter in place order within the refinery for areas downwind of the leak, Marr said. BP set up an incident command center and the leak was contained at about 9 p.m.


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