PASADENA, Texas (AP) - A heating unit exploded and triggered a
fire at a chemical plant in Pasadena where an irritant may also
have been released into the air, fire officials said.
A Pasadena Fire Department official said the blaze Wednesday
night apparently began from an ethyl benzene leak near a process
heater at the Nova Chemicals Plant south of the Bayport Ship
Channel.
The fire was fueled by the chemical ethyl benzene, and a large
plume of smoke could been seen coming from the facility.
"The smoke looks smaller than it was earlier," Nova Chemicals
spokesman Bobby Patton told The Associated Press Wednesday night.
However, "we are calling in reinforcements to make sure it is
contained."
There were no injuries, Patton said, and the company had
accounted for all employees through a head count.
The fire started at 7:09 p.m. Some residents reported hearing an
explosion.
Pasadena Fire Chief J.D. Gardner said employees were working on
a process heater when the explosion occurred. The heater is used in
the plant's refining process, he said.
Ethyl benzene is a colorless and flammable liquid that smells
like gasoline. Breathing air containing high levels of ethyl
benzene can cause dizziness and throat and eye irritation,
according to the Houston Chronicle's editions Thursday.
A shelter was set up in South Pasadena as a precautionary
measure. Residents were being told to stay in their homes, Patton
said.
No one was evacuated.
Patton said the company was still evaluating the amount of the
chemical released and could not say whether the amount was toxic.
The plant produces the chemical raw materials that are used to
make foam cups, plastic forks and plates. According to the company
Web site, 125 people work at the plant.
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On the Net:
Nova Chemicals www.novachem.com

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)