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Asbestos awareness, damage assessment begin

PORT NECHES — Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick asked residents of Port Neches, Groves, Nederland and northern Port Arthur returning following the lift of an evacuation order to be aware of the most immediate health threats — asbestos and contaminated debris.

“There was a pretty profound explosion that threw debris all over the city of Port Neches and maybe parts of Nederland and Port Arthur,” Branick said Friday. “As people return to their homes, they need to survey their yards and it’s conditions.”

Asbestos, which is a naturally occurring mineral often used as an effective insulator, can be deadly when someone inhales, ingests or comes into contact with the fibers.

Asbestos is noted as having a white, chalky type exterior. Branick said tenants should be on the lookout for a blanketed effect, blocks or dust that can be harmful.

“TPC will be coming to homes and doing air monitoring if it’s requested,” Branick said. “Act with caution and watch out for other metallic debris that might be in your yard. Report any presence of debris so that [TPC] can attend to that. That’s not something that our citizens need to be involved in dealing with.”

As residents begin returning to their homes, Jefferson County officials and emergency management teams are expected to begin gathering information for damage assessment.

Troy Monk, director of health, safety and security of TPC, said the group is working on getting a solid count on the impacts from the incident for surrounding communities.

“We are currently monitoring, and will continue monitoring all impacts,” he said. “I want to stress to the citizens, we still have active fires. We are confident the situation is contained. Otherwise we would not have taken the change in position. There is still going to be smoke in the air. There is still going to be fire seen at night.

“We are doing everything we can to address this issue as quickly as we can. We will remain diligent in our efforts to inform everyone with what’s going on, as well as monitoring the impacts to the community.”

Residents are urged to call the TPC Helpline at 866-601-5880 to report all damage and debris sightings.

Monk said the previous issues with the hotline have been remedied.

“The first day we put out the hotline, it was overwhelmed,” he said. “There were some issues with no one answering. That was simply because we underestimated the number of calls that came in as quickly as they did. We certainly rectified that and put more operators on the event.”

The contract service in charge of receiving complaints is set up with a callback service. Residents may leave a message and will be contacted later as soon as possible.

“I have no idea what the number of claims are at the moment,” Monk said. “It was an overwhelming number and I’m sure they are going to continue coming in. We will continue to manage them appropriately.”

No information was given as to when local residents will begin receiving reimbursements for damage to their homes and out-of-town expenses, but citizens are encouraged to report all losses to their insurance adjusters and TPC.