Chemical analysis near Manchester, Houston TX, revealed concentrations of benzene above 100 ppbv. The displayed data is a summary of data tracking the plume over several days as the evolution of the release was monitored.
Hurricane Harvey brought as much as 60 inches of rain on Houston and neighboring areas, leading to widespread flooding, facility damage, and massive releases of chemicals into the environment. Companies reported (likely an underestimate) that 8.3 million pounds of pollutants were released during the hurricane; this occurred during a period when the state temporarily suspended mandatory reporting requirements. In the immediate aftermath of this disaster, Entanglement Technologies was deployed to Houston, Port Arthur, and other nearby communities to provide rapid screening and source identification. We also coordinated with the Houston Health Department to direct their resources and responses toward protecting communities potentially at risk. Working with Air Alliance Houston and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), our team used a vehicle-mounted AROMA instrument to monitor storm-damaged areas.
AROMA-VOC was able to rapidly screen large areas and identified seven significant chemical plumes in the vicinity of the Houston Ship Channel and Port Arthur. These plumes consisted of a range of hazardous chemicals, including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and most significantly benzene. Two of these plumes exhibited benzene concentrations above 50 parts per billion, triggering follow-up analyses.
The AROMA technology simultaneously analyzes for multiple chemicals, providing a critical capability in the source-dense environment post-Harvey. Multiple plumes were spatially overlapped at a site in Baytown and were only distinguished by the dramatic variation of chemical composition across the plume. Of the seven plumes characterized, only two plumes displayed similar “fingerprints”, indicating that they were produced by similar source materials. During the course of the deployment (lasting 5 days), we completed measurements across Houston, Harris County, and Port Arthur. These data provided critical information on the chemical releases that neighborhoods were exposed to in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane and supported decision-making surrounding public health interventions. The capabilities demonstrated during this deployment have led the Houston Health Department to procure multiple AROMA instruments to provide ongoing response and monitoring capabilities.