A Drillchem explosion outside of Houston made nationwide headlines on Friday. The first explosions rocked the town of Conroe at about 4:40 p.m. Friday afternoon. The explosions that followed caused a three-alarm fire at the plant located in the small Texas town, according to Chron.
The good news of this incident is that no one was inside the plant at the time of the first explosion. No one was injured because of the explosions.
However, as a safety precaution, the authorities put out a shelter-in-place order and closed down the nearby Loop 336. However, KHOU reported that authorities reopened the highway by 8:30 p.m. on Friday evening. The order to stay inside was lifted around 7 p.m. on Friday.
DrillChem Drilling released a statement after the incident.
“The facility was empty at the time of the fire and we are thankful that no injuries have been reported. We are working closely with local authorities to determine the cause of the fire and assess the extent of the damage. Early indications show that there was no impact to the surrounding environment, but the health and safety of our employees and neighbors is our highest concern and we are taking every precaution. We want to thank all of the first responders who helped us handle this situation quickly and effectively.”
A group of 50 firefighters and a Hazmat team worked furiously in the hours following the series of explosions to contain the blaze that followed. The majority of the fire was out as night fell, but crews planned to stay through the overnight hours to make sure the fire was out.
The Conroe fire marshal, Mike Legoudes, said, “This is the first fire of this size that I’ve seen in a facility like this in my 14 years in Conroe. It’s pretty significant.”
He also revealed that the last employee had left the location at 4 p.m. that afternoon. Firefighters arrived to find the gates locked after the explosions. They did not start to fight the fire head on until about 6 p.m. because of concerns over the chemicals inside. No one wanted the firefighters injured or to become ill because of those chemicals.
— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) August 14, 2015
— KPRC 2 Houston (@KPRC2) August 14, 2015
Conroe is about 40 miles outside the major city of Houston. One Conroe resident, Julie Reagan, spoke with KHOU about the explosions.
She said, “Small explosion and then thirty seconds later it was huge. I mean black smoke just came like crazy. It just totally shook our windows and shook the doors, the cabinets inside my home. The dogs went crazy.”
With the fire at the DrillChem plant now out, there are concerns about pollutants in the air and the water in Conroe. According to a previous Inquisitr report, DrillChem manufacturers “sealants, shale inhibitors, and lubricants.” At the plant, several items are made that might cause issues for residents in the area. ABC 13 revealed some of these products in their report.
“One product is called Drill-Lube. It’s described as an ’emulsified blend of synthetics alcohols.’ It’s flammable, but not considered a hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency. Another product called First Strike helps replace sand. It’s also not considered a hazard by the EPA, but exposure can result in nausea, diarrhea, as well as eye and skin irritation. Another chemical the company produces is called Surf-Coat, which is a drilling additive. It is very flammable and can cause irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath.”
Fire officials and the EPA place air monitors in the area following the explosion, and those monitors showed the air quality was good. Officials are also monitoring the water because of the amount that was used by the firefighters to combat the blaze.
Another resident, Wayne Patterson, lives a mile from the plant, and his son rushed to his home because his eyes were burning after the explosion. The son lives a half mile away from the plant.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation at this time.