At least two people are dead and 30 were hospitalized after a chemical leak at a Houston-area plant on Tuesday night, company officials said.
LyondellBasell said that about 100,000 pounds (45,359 kilograms) of a mixture that primarily included acetic acid was released in the leak that started Tuesday evening at its La Porte Complex. The company said that the “all clear” was given early Wednesday, and that the leak had been isolated and contained.
The incident began at about 7:35 p.m. when "LyondellBasell La Porte requested support from La Porte EMS regarding a mass casualty incident at their facility," La Porte's public information officer Lee Woodward told CNN.
Harris County Pollution Control spokesperson Dimetra Hamilton told the Houston Chronicle that a cap burst on a pressurized line of acetic acid.
Acetic acid "is a chemical acid used in food-grade vinegar," Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen explained in a news conference. "The issue that occurs is severe burns, harmful if swallowed, toxic if inhaled and harmful to the skin."
The cause of the leak has not been given, but the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office determined that it wasn't caused by an explosion or fire, they said on Twitter.
LyondellBasell is the third largest chemical manufacturer in the United States. Headquartered in Houston, the La Porte plant was built in 2017.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who represents La Porte, said on Twitter saying that she is “heartbroken to hear of two fatalities" at the facility.
Our county and other first responder agencies are working to support the other workers impacted and to verify that the incident is contained," Hidalgo said in a tweet, adding: "Grateful to all responders.”
According to LyondellBasell, its La Porte Complex, located on about 550 acres (223 hectares) on the shore of the Houston Ship Channel, has over 600 employees and contractors. The company has two businesses there, one dealing with chemicals, the other with acetyls, which is where the leak occurred.
The company said acetic acid is produced to meet requirements for shipping in the food industry and is used in textiles, plastic bottles, industrial solvents and other chemicals.
Last week in La Porte, evacuation and shelter-in-place orders were issued after a chemical release at a Dow Chemical plant there. A tank truck trailer had over-pressurized, causing the chemical hydroxyethyl acrylate to escape through a safety valve. The orders were later lifted.
La Porte is located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Houston. The plant is in an unincorporated part of Harris County, adjacent to La Porte, according to a statement issued by La Porte EMS, and no shelter in place or other protective actions were recommended for the community.
Contributing: The Associated Press.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas chemical leak: 2 dead, 30 hospitalized in LyondellBasell plant