PAFD and TCEQ continue monitoring GP silo collapse

Published 5:13 pm Monday, June 5, 2017

The German Pellets silo that collapsed Sunday morning after smoldering for 52 days is still being monitored by the Port Arthur Fire Department, as clouds of smoke still hover over the destroyed structure. According to a brief email statement from Andrea Morrow of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the PAFD is the lead, though TCEQ is continuing its investigation and responding to citizen complaints within its jurisdiction.

“The fire department is on site to douse hot spots,” Risa Carpenter, public information officer for the city

Mary Meaux/The News
Firefighters continue to douse hot spots at the site of a collapsed silo owned by German Pellets on Monday. The silo, which had smoldered for more than 50 days, collapsed early Sunday morning.

of Port Arthur, said. “They have been on site since the incident initially occurred and continue to be out there until it is over with.”

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According to a press release at noon Sunday from the City of Port Arthur, the silo collapsed around 4:20 a.m. It is unclear at this time if the rupture occurred because of metal fatigue or a possible lightning strike from last night’s severe weather. One thing is certain, it is gone.

“It’s gone!” John Beard, former council member and community activist, said this morning. “The silo is gone. All you’ve got is pile of smoldering rubble. So, now what’s your plan?”

Even though the silo has collapsed, there are still unanswered questions of what will become of the

A partial view of the still smoldering collapsed silo and clouds of smoke taken from West Procter Street.

company and its remaining silos on the site. Citizens of Port Arthur, especially those residents of the Westside community in the immediate vicinity of the silos, are now wondering where to go from here, and if German Pellets still be allowed to operate in their community.

“Some of the safety concerns were made known to the company (by workers) but they just shrugged them off and said keep working,” Hilton Kelley, environmental activist, said. “It is ridiculous what has been found out about this company and what they knew prior to co

Mary Meaux/The News
A haze of smoke lay above West Procter Street at Foley Drive.

ntinuing operations.”

The company’s permit was pulled until all of the issues with the silo were resolved, though they could be allowed to continue operating after that.

“I’m afraid of their procedure and the way they’ve packed those silos. All of that should be a major factor in moving forward,” Kelley said. “But I don’t think they should be allowed to resume operations because I do not believe they have the capacity to pull it together to where they can insure the safety of this community or workers within the next year or two, so they should just go ahead and get out of here. I’m really concerned about the future for the other four (silos), and providing they resume operations, I think they would face the same thing. We just don’t want them here anymore.”

One thing that residents can be happy about is that the silo will no longer be filling their lungs and homes with smoke. But Kelley said that the fight for citizens’ rights in the matter will continue.

“We’re going to continue on with the fight,” Kelley said. “The attorneys have definitely decided to take our case and move forward. They’re going to give us an update at the meeting on June 21. The damage has been done, so there’s no reversing that.”

Mary Meaux/The News
Firefighters continue to douse hot spots at the site of a collapsed silo owned by German Pellets on Monday. The silo, which had smoldered for more than 50 days, collapsed early Sunday morning.

As far as the investigation into what was actually being emitted by the silos, and in what proportions, some residents are worried that the evidence of what they’ve been breathing will no longer be available.

“We need a sample,” Beard said. “All we need is a sample of the contents and they can do it just like they do in a lab, heat it up or burn it and see what comes off of it and do a chromatographic scan of what comes off of it. It’s very scientific.

Beard said that there was talk of an investigation, and with that, there must be scene preservation and samples must be collected and tested. He said that the fire department, TCEQ and city officials must do their due diligence in the investigation or stand accused of not looking out for the welfare of their citizens.

No injuries were reported. The Port Arthur Fire Department remains on scene to douse hot spots and for damage assessment. According to the release TCEQ is involved with incident assessment and is conducting odor and emissions surveys in the nearby Westside community, and responding to citizen complaints. GPTX has phone line for responses and inquiries concerning this incident, (409) 200-3313.