PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 28, 2013

TCEQ to remove PA from watch list

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Successful reductions of benzene are prompting the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to consider removing Port Arthur from the Air Pollutant Watch List.

Yearly average benzene concentrations have decreased significantly over the past 11 years because area petrochemical plants and refineries have implemented improvements leading to reductions in emissions, Tara Capobianco, air pollutant watchlist coordinator with the TCEQ, said in a telephone conversation Wednesday.

Port Arthur was added to the watch list in 2001 after monitors at TCEQ’s City Service Center registered benzene concentrations exceeding the agency’s long-term, health-based air monitoring comparison value.

Six ambient, stationary monitors register the amount of benzene in the atmosphere. Three of those are operated by TCEQ and three by the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission, Lisa Wheeler, TCEQ spokesperson said in a phone conversation Wednesday.

Though TCEQ officials are preparing to remove Port Arthur from the list, the area will continue to be measured by all six of the monitors, Capobianco said.

Benzene, a carcinogen,  is a widely used chemical formed from both natural processes and human activities. Breathing benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and unconsciousness; long-term benzene exposure causes effects on the bone marrow and can cause anemia and leukemia, according to the TCEQ Web site.

The first day for public comment began Wednesday and will continue through Oct. 11.

A public meeting is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lucy Stiefel Gallery in the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave., Port Arthur.

Written or oral comments will be taken at the public hearing. Comments may also be emailed to APWL@TCEQ.texas.gov, or mailed to: Tara Capobianco, Air Pollutant Watch List Coordinator, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, 6300 Ocean Drive, NRC Building, Suite 1200, Unit 5839, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412-5839.

Port Arthur has been on the watch list with 10 other Texas areas, including Beaumont, for sulfur dioxide and Evadale for hydrogen sulfide, both of which remain on the list, Capobianco said.

For more information visit the TCEQ website at www.tceq.texas.gov/toxicology/AirPollutantMain

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