Petro Metro: A Toxic Tour of Houston from Refineries to Superfund Sites in Wake of Harvey

Petro Metro: A Toxic Tour of Houston from Refineries to Superfund Sites in Wake of Harvey

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,,
The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We turn now to Texas, where the death toll
continues to rise from Hurricane Harvey. At least 63 people have now died in the unprecedented
flooding. The damage caused by the storm is staggering. More than 40,000 homes have been lost, as
many as a million cars destroyed. Meanwhile, the long-term environmental impact
of the storm is just beginning to be felt. The Center for Biological Diversity reports
flooded oil refineries and chemical plants released as much as 5 million pounds of pollutants
into the air during the storm. On Friday night, another large fire broke
out at the flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. Then, on Sunday, authorities set fire to six
remaining containers of chemicals in what was described as a controlled burn. The company continues to refuse to inform
local residents what chemicals burned at the site. Well, this weekend, Democracy Now! headed to Texas. I went there with Democracy Now!’s Renée
Feltz and Hany Massoud—both are from Houston. We went to get a closer look at the environmental
and public health impact of Hurricane Harvey and related flooding. Houston, the Petro Metro, is home to a quarter
of the petroleum refining capacity in the United States; include the entire Gulf Coast,
and the percentage increases to half. Some of the major refineries in the region
are run by ExxonMobil, Valero and the Saudi-owned Motiva. This weekend, we took a “toxic tour” of the
facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, where plants spewed toxins into the air of
nearby neighborhoods, so often poor communities of color. Our guide was Bryan Parras, organizer with
the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign and t.e.j.a.s., Texas Environmental Justice
Advocacy Services. Our visit came as the number of people who
have died from Harvey rose to at least 63, including the first reported death of a volunteer
rescuer, who was also a recipient of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
program. The body of Alonso Guillén was found Friday,
after he disappeared Wednesday when his boat hit a bridge and capsized. His mother told the Houston Chronicle she
tried to come from Mexico to the U.S. to bury her son but was turned away by Border Patrol
agents. She said, “When we are with God, there are
no borders.” As we begin our toxic tour in Houston, we
stop by a fundraiser that was set up to pay for the funerals of four undocumented rescue
volunteers who were killed when their small boat was swept away by churning floodwaters
last Monday and ran into downed power lines. They were electrocuted—brothers Yahir Vizueth
and Benjamin Vizueth, their uncle Gustavo Rodríguez-Hernández and their friend Jorge
Pérez, electrocuted when they fell into the water. Another brother, José, survived, along with
two British Daily Mail journalists who were also on the boat to document the rescue missions. All of them suffered severe burns. They clung to trees until they were discovered
the next day, some 18 hours later. At Sunday’s fundraiser, we spoke to family
member Stepheny Jacquez. STEPHENY JACQUEZ: On Monday, around 3 p.m.—well,
started that morning—they were out rescuing people, a group of five men. They went out on a different part of town
to save families affected. There wasn’t enough, you know, boats on
the water. They had a boat. They said, “Why not? We can help. We want to help.” They saved a total of seven people, two families. Then they heard that on the east side of town,
towards Normandy and Wallisville, it was getting flooded horribly. So they said, “Well, now we’re heading that
way to see what we can do and how we can help.” On the way over there, they were trying to
cross a bayou, and they lost control of the boat. I’m not exactly sure the details, but they
lost control, of what we’ve heard, and wrecked with an electricity pole. They had to jump out of the boat. And when they jumped in the water, they all
got electrocuted. Three of them were saved the next day at 11
in the morning. AMY GOODMAN: And those three were the—José,
the brother— STEPHENY JACQUEZ: José Vizueth was saved. Two reporters from the Daily News U.K. were
also saved. AMY GOODMAN: Daily Mail? STEPHENY JACQUEZ: Daily Mail. They were saved. They were also on the boat. Within the next day or so, we heard news of
Yahir being found, one of the other brothers, one of the three brothers on the boat. Jorge was also found. And we were still missing two. They were found on Thursday. We took it upon ourselves. We gathered a search group, the family. There was around a hundred people in that
search. Around 3 p.m., we found Gustavo behind a neighborhood. And the search continued. We were still missing one more, and he was
found by boat. ELIZABETH BARNABY: Hi. My name is Elizabeth Barnaby. These four guys were undocumented. You know, they didn’t have papers. That’s true. And they didn’t care. They still risked their lives, and they saved
a lot of lives. RENÉE FELTZ: So, we’re going to leave this
fundraiser and get back in a car and head out on our toxic tour with Bryan Parras. BRYAN PARRAS: So there are some relatives
that are undocumented. And, you know, we’re fearful of any attention
that they would draw to themselves by asking for help. And we’re in Texas. You know, people are very proud, don’t like
to ask for help. But we need it. We all need it right now. Yeah, so, we’re in Denver Harbor right now,
and it’s just north of Buffalo Bayou. AMY GOODMAN: So, we’re going to continue
from here, from this just terrible story of four young—four heroes who were killed as
they were trying to save people, for you to take us on this toxic tour of Houston. BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah. I mean, you know, this isn’t normally a
stop. You know, I think this is emblematic of the
very, very strong part of these neighborhoods. We’re just driving on 610, and this is the
on-ramp. We’re going north right now. And what you’re looking at is Manchester. This is the beginning of the Petro Metro,
Amy. You know, this goes on for 30-plus miles,
all the way to Galveston Bay, and then it even wraps around Galveston Bay to Texas City
and then to Baytown, another, you know, onwards to Port Arthur, Beaumont. AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about what’s
happened to this industry in the midst of Harvey? BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah. So, a lot of these plants had to go into emergency
shutdown prior to the storm coming. And that’s a precautionary move, but it’s
one that they know is going to happen, particularly if a hurricane is coming. And over the years, they’ve done nothing,
you know, to prevent the toxic release of the chemicals that are sent out while these
shutdowns are happening. AMY GOODMAN: This area didn’t get flooded? BRYAN PARRAS: This area, I don’t believe,
got flooded. Yeah, it was OK. But the smells from all of the burn-off from
many, many refineries is something that they had to contend with. And it’s something, you know, I could smell,
even two miles from here. [Editor’s Note: On Monday, August 28, 2017
the tejas team documented that Manchester was affected by high floodwaters. Flood waters were also documented running
from the Valero facility into the neighborhood and Hartman park.] This is Westway, yeah, and these are storage
tanks. And I’m not sure what they have in here,
you know? A lot of times it’s really hard to know
what these facilities are doing. As we saw with the Crosby situation, they
oftentimes claim that because of terroristic threats, it’s better to not inform the community. Yeah, we have folks who don’t really know
what all of the threats are. And throughout the day, you know, they have
to hear alarms and bells, and things go off that worry them. You know, they cause undue stress and anxiety. We just passed by a house completely surrounded
by tanks. And across the street is Hartman Park. And this is the only green space for the neighborhood
here. And so, across from the park, literally, one
street, is Valero, Valero refining. So I’m going to stop here. And this is a friend of ours. Yudith Nieto’s grandmother lives here. And during the storm, I was getting messages
from her aunt, because they were really concerned about the Crosby plant and how that might
affect things here. And, of course, they were having to deal with
the toxic fumes, as well. So I promised I would bring them some masks. AMY GOODMAN: The smell here is pretty intense. BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah, this is—this is every
day, too. And this isn’t even as bad as it gets. You know, it’s intense. Yeah, and this is why I said, Amy, you know,
this is the everyday poison that people have to breathe. AMY GOODMAN: Is this every day, the smell
in the air? MARIA NIETO: [translated] Yeah, it’s very
normal. Lately, they’ve been feeling it more so
with the—in the nose, and the eyes get teary. It’s very normal for that type of reaction
to occur with them. So they usually wear store-bought masks that
are not necessarily as prepared for this type of exposure. AMY GOODMAN: Did they warn you when they closed
this plant down that more toxins would be going into the air? MAURO NIETO: No. MARIA NIETO: [translated] No one from the
refineries or the spaces have told them. They found out during the TVs that they watch
and family members that are on the lookout and let them know. AMY GOODMAN: So, you just delivered masks
to the Nietos in the shadow of Valero, this massive plant here in Houston. BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah. You know, it’s shameful and really, really
upsetting to think that families who live here have to make modifications and change
the way they live, to shelter in place in your own home, Amy, to have masks on hand
and to have painful reactions to just breathing, you know, the itchy eyes, the throats, the
headaches, and that that’s an everyday experience. RENÉE FELTZ: We’re going to exit our car
here and approach some men who look like they’re working on fuel pipes that go over a bridge. AMY GOODMAN: So, we’re going down to where
they’re fixing the bridge and pipelines right around these facilities. Hi. You guys working on the pipeline or the bridge? PIPELINE WORKER 1: The pipeline. AMY GOODMAN: The pipeline. Getting it ready to go back online? PIPELINE WORKER 1: Yes, ma’am. AMY GOODMAN: What does it look like. What kind of damage did it have? PIPELINE WORKER 1: Just real minimal, but
we can’t comment. AMY GOODMAN: What happened? What was the damage? PIPELINE WORKER 1: We really can’t comment. I apologize. It was all from the storm, though. AMY GOODMAN: Yeah. PIPELINE WORKER 2: Storm water. AMY GOODMAN: So, what role do you think climate
change has to do with all of this? PIPELINE WORKER 3: How much we sweat. PIPELINE WORKER 1: Yeah. AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that would be a
good place to start, to start dealing with? PIPELINE WORKER 3: Nah. Save your money. AMY GOODMAN: Are you guys working for Valero? ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR: No, for—we’ve been
a contractor for Enterpipe, and we’re working with some job for Enterprise. AMY GOODMAN: What’s wrong with the pipeline? What happened? ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR: Oh, well, just the water
goes too high, and we moved the pipe over with the—over the—this pipe, we’ve got
to set up. We move it over, and we’re trying to put
it back in place. AMY GOODMAN: Oh, because the water pushed
it over? ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR: Right. AMY GOODMAN: I see. ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR: Right. AMY GOODMAN: Are they going to be able to
turn back the pipe—turn the pipelines back on soon? ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR: Oh, yeah, pretty soon,
maybe in an hour or two. We’re going to be—
AMY GOODMAN: In an hour or two? ENTERPIPE CONTRACTOR: In an hour or two, we’re
going to be the same like it is before. RENÉE FELTZ: We’ve heard that the factories
and the refineries you’re showing us shut down, and that was dangerous, but now they’re
starting it back up. Is that also dangerous? BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah. The same thing that happened during the shutdown
is going to happen again during the startup. And I don’t know how long that startup process
lasts. But if you can imagine all of the liquids
that are in the pipes that feed into the facilities, you know, all that’s going to have to get
turned back on, and it’s going to take a good while for, you know, the system to be
properly sort of running as it normally does. A lot of these facilities are not meant to
ever stop. They just keep going. And so, that’s what causes, you know, the
dirty burns and the problems—not to think that it’s safe at all when it’s running,
you know, normally. It’s still putting toxins into the air. But when these other events, shutdowns and
startups, happen, it’s even worse. AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bryan Parras of the
[Beyond] Dirty Fuels campaign of Sierra Club, taking us on our toxic tour of the Houston
Ship Channel, which continues in a minute. [break] AMY GOODMAN: “Texas Flood” as performed by
the Texas blues musician Stevie Ray Vaughan. This is Democracy Now!,,
The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we continue
with our toxic tour of Houston, the Petro Metro, home to a quarter of the petroleum
refining capacity in the United States. I was in Houston this weekend our Democracy
Now! colleagues Hany Massoud and Renée Feltz,
both Texan natives. Our guide was Bryan Parras, organizer with
the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign and t.e.j.a.s., Texas Environmental Justice
Advocacy Services. BRYAN PARRAS: We’re on our way to Baytown. Baytown is home to Exxon, you know, a very,
very old plant. It’s the second-largest refinery Exxon has. And it was inundated with water during the
storm. It may still be. I haven’t been there yet. But they had some massive flares that were
documented by USA Today, and burning these chemicals that we were just talking about,
you know, during their shutdown process. AMY GOODMAN: And did the EPA give them waivers
to burn all this out or all these companies to release toxins? BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah. So, normally, in a regular situation, you
know, they would be limited in how long they could flare. In this case, the EPA gave them a waiver so
that there were no penalties for exceeding those time limits. AMY GOODMAN: We’re looking at a sign that
says “Kinder Morgan. Warning! Gas pipeline crossing.” BRYAN PARRAS: And just, you know, 20 feet
behind it is someone’s home. You know, someone lives right here. AMY GOODMAN: There’s not much regulation
in Texas, is there? BRYAN PARRAS: This is what people look at
when they say there’s no zoning. These are the sorts of situations that happen. And just—we just drove by new pipelines,
which makes me think that there have been some breaches, some leaks, something, you
know, or else why are these pipelines here? It looks like they’re going to do some repair
jobs right here in this person’s backyard. AMY GOODMAN: We’re standing in front of
a Motiva plant. Motiva is run by Aramco of Saudi Arabia. It’s the largest oil refinery in the country,
right here in Houston, Texas. Right behind us is a warning sign for a pipeline
that says Energy Transfer Partners. Energy Transfer Partners built the Dakota
Access pipeline. We just passed pipelines or equipment for
Kinder Morgan, Motiva, the largest oil refinery here, Energy Transfer Partners, which makes
the Dakota Access pipeline, all within a few yards of each other. BRYAN PARRAS: This is the concentration that
exists here. AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, directly next
to a neighborhood. BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah, and this is another predominantly
Mexican-American neighborhood. This is the definition of a fenceline community. AMY GOODMAN: As opposed to a front line? BRYAN PARRAS: As opposed to a front line. So, look, here’s a nice little flare. And so, yeah, there’s a distinction, right? When folks say “front-line communities,” of
course, there are a lot of people who live near different toxic sites, but a fenceline
community is literally bordered by these facilities, like you see here. And it’s not just what you see above ground;
it’s the many pipelines that are underneath the ground. And there have been studies done here to point
out that the pipelines are also leaking benzene from the ground. So you’re getting rained on from above,
and you’re also getting gassed from below. There’s no escape. We’re riding over the Hartman Bridge, and
below us is the Houston Ship Channel, and it empties out into Galveston Bay to our right. And to our left is ExxonMobil, the second-largest
refinery in the country. And this is a plant that was inundated with
water. And we’re coming to check it out, because
we just heard that it’s coming back online. AMY GOODMAN: As we’re going around on this
toxic tour to the ExxonMobil refinery here in Baytown, Bryan Parras and Crystal Ibarra
stopped at the local church to deliver them some food and some clothes. Can you tell us your name and the church? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: My name is Pastor Carlos
Caban from Templo Emanuel here at 1328 Cherry Street, Baytown, Texas. We did get hit hard. I mean, we—instead of crying, we are helping. And as you guys bring help, that’s how—that’s
how it goes, you know? And it’s not easy. You know, this is a real low-income community. This house is like—water was up to here,
to the taillight of your vehicle. And they’re still living in there. And they’re afraid of coming and getting
help. Like—
BRYAN PARRAS: I didn’t see a lot of furniture out in the streets. PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Not in this community,
because they’re a low-income community. So—
BRYAN PARRAS: So, they’re—even though it got wet, they’re—
PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: I had a lady that, this morning, on service, I had to tell her, beg
her, “Please, I’ll get some rescue guys to go in there.” She goes, “That’s all I have. If I throw it out, why am I living?” I said, “Well, I’d rather you not live in
there. You’ve got to choose which one: live in
there or, honestly, die from cancer.” You know, the molds are turning black already. BRYAN PARRAS: The mold? The mold’s already coming? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Yeah. AMY GOODMAN: Why are they afraid to get help? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Well, we have different
laws that are in place. Here, what we are doing is just taking names
and the addresses. And some people think that, you know, immigration
is going to take them. And as that happens—we tell them this is
a place of refuge. This is a—this line right here divides us
from the city and divides us from anything else. This is a safe haven here. You could come and be here. AMY GOODMAN: So, a lot of people are afraid
to seek help or shelter because they’re afraid they could be taken by—
PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Immigration. We’ve got the SB 4 in place. That’s a big one here. I mean, I’ve gotten people who say, “I can’t
give you my address or my phone number.” But for me to continue getting help—you
know, sometimes it’s guys like you guys that bring help. But then I’ve got cities that come back
and ask for documentation and “How many people did you feed?” or “Is the truck getting to
the people that need it?” And that’s one of the major things. RENÉE FELTZ: What’s across the street? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: That’s the entrance
of Exxon, Exxon refinery. So, we’re 20 feet from the refinery. And that’s what we’ve got in our backyard. AMY GOODMAN: So, how does that affect people
who live here? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Man, I don’t know how
to answer that one. AMY GOODMAN: Do many of the people who live
here work there? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Yes and no. Yes and no. I got a lot of guys that work in there, in
the refinery, as they’ve got to maintain the families, so… Right now, they’re not working, so we’re
helping out. Some of them—I have a guy that is not going
because the area has been flooded. And y’all know what goes with that, but
at the end of the day, you know, he’s not actually working no more. AMY GOODMAN: Do they get paid if they’re
not working? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: No, no. There is guys that are contractors. As being a contractor, they don’t get paid. AMY GOODMAN: What’s in the air and the water
here? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Well, there’s chemicals. You know, there’s different chemicals that
are around. I’ll give you an example. If you cross over 225, that water that looks
blue is the water from the refinery, when it leaked out. So, it’s some of the stuff that is out here. AMY GOODMAN: So, the refinery is not back
on? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Not yet. They haven’t turned it on. I don’t know how long they will start it
back up. But right now it’s actually off, so it’s
not working. RENÉE FELTZ: Can you tell us if they explained
anything when they shut it down? What was that like when they shut it down? Did they—what did they tell you? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Oh, they didn’t call
nobody. They didn’t say—they didn’t say no volunteer
or anything else. They just shut it down. All you can see is—well, right here, if
you look right here, right behind that tree is a flare. So, as we were out here, we were getting—as
we’re giving relief, you’re still getting the impact of the flares. AMY GOODMAN: Is the flare always raging? Or was it—
PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: No, just last night, and, I want to say, when the hurricane was
here, the whole week, day and night. AMY GOODMAN: So, the flare burns not all the
time, but when the plant closes down? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Yes. Well, no, I can’t say. When they got an upset, they do burn. So, for us, I mean, we’re in the community,
you know? Where can I go? AMY GOODMAN: How is the cancer rate here? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Oh, it’s big. It’s big. If you noticed, four years, I want to say,
you take this street right up, right across the refinery, they had the—there was the
city projects, were there. And they were affected by gases. And they eliminated them all completely. Exxon bought them all up. AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about climate
change? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Ah, yes and no. Yes and no, in the sense it’s—we are seeing
the effect right now. When it comes about climate and anything else,
we’re seeing it right now. I’ll give you an example. When in history have we seen a flood just
like this? It has to do with climate change, and it has
to do with what’s going around the world. You know, for me to live here so many years,
and now, suddenly, a flood of this magnitude, I mean, even here, I mean, it’s unbearable. It’s unbearable. AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the fact
that the president of the United States, President Trump, denies that climate change, that the
fossil fuel industry or human beings have anything to do with climate? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: We just got to look at
what—what our signs are, you know, our effects. I know we pulled out of an important treaty,
which is the climate. AMY GOODMAN: The Paris climate accord. PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Yeah. And I think that was—that was a big mistake
for us, you know, as a country. And I think we have to have rules. I think we have to have regulations. AMY GOODMAN: Have you heard from Exxon since
the plant shutdown, since the hurricane? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: No, ma’am. No, ma’am. AMY GOODMAN: How about FEMA? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: We don’t got FEMA here. AMY GOODMAN: Federal Emergency Management
Agency. PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: We don’t got them here. We, as churches, as part of the city, working
with the city, we’re on our own. AMY GOODMAN: What about Red Cross? Have they been here? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: No. We were a shelter for five days. And the city put a response together of pastors
to help out. Nobody else. AMY GOODMAN: President Trump is deciding on
DACA, whether to end it, the DREAMers, their ability to stay and work. PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: That affects me, affects
me as a church, affects me—it affects us all. We’ve got people that don’t have papers,
but we’ve got to protect them, too, you know? They’re human beings. Their kids grew up with us. I’m going to tell you, “Get out of here”? You know, so it’s hard. It’s hard. It hurts all of us. It hurts our economy. Sometimes we think that it’s not going to
hurt our economy. And I’ve got people that are—that need
our help. And they help. They work. AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel forgotten here, in
the shadow of the second-largest refinery in this country, in the shadow of the ExxonMobil
refinery? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: I will say yeah. I will say yeah. AMY GOODMAN: we’re here at Baytown Emanuel
Temple Church. It looks out on the second-largest refinery
in this country, ExxonMobil here in Baytown. People here, a number of them have lost everything,
but they’re helping other people getting clothes, whatever deliveries come in. And now we’re going to just go inside, take
a look. People took refuge here. And now, Pastor, you’re showing us video
of ExxonMobil. Someone took drone footage. What are you looking at? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: You see the different
colors of the—you see the chemicals there? AMY GOODMAN: Mm-hmm. PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: That’s the chemicals. AMY GOODMAN: This is ExxonMobil underwater. PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Yeah, yeah. So… AMY GOODMAN: With the—and this is the kind
of water that came to you— PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Yeah. AMY GOODMAN: —and that inundated people’s
homes. PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: That would be the same,
yeah. AMY GOODMAN: And what about the flares? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Oh, they were going. As you see, they’re still going on right
there. AMY GOODMAN: What’s your concern about the
flares? PASTOR CARLOS CABAN: Benzene, we know, is
a carcinogen. And benzene is in your—is an additive for
gasoline and for diesel. And it’s a byproduct of what the refinery
does. So, I tell you, it’s one of the worst things
that you can imagine. RENÉE FELTZ: We’re leaving the church now,
where we can see a flare in the distance, and we’re headed to the last stop on our
toxic tour. It’s a Superfund site in the middle of the
San Jacinto River. AMY GOODMAN: So, Bryan, why don’t you tell
us what this Superfund site is that we’re standing at, in the—on the edge of the Jacinto
River, under an overpass? I don’t even even see any signs that say
“danger.” BRYAN PARRAS: There’s one little sign over
here. AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what this is. Why should we be concerned? BRYAN PARRAS: Yeah, well, this is one of the
most dangerous Superfund sites here in the Houston area. It’s got dioxin, a very, very, very highly
toxic substance. And it’s an underwater Superfund site, but
you can kind of see the mound of rocks over in the middle of this river. And that’s where it’s nearby. AMY GOODMAN: Explain what exactly is in this
Superfund site. Who built it? Why is it here? Who’s cleaning it up? And what happened during the storm to it? BRYAN PARRAS: Well, a lot of those questions
as to what’s happening, we don’t—we don’t know, because, you know, there have
been articles about the EPA not being out here yet to do testing. But it’s an old paper mill waste site. They basically dumped a lot of their old waste
product. And we know that paper mills, when they bleach
their waters, that there’s a lot of dioxins that are the byproduct of that. And so, it’s some of the really nastiest
chemical on Earth. AMY GOODMAN: So, we see refineries in the
background. Then we see the Superfund—well, we see top
of it—site. And then we see these circular—what would
you call these? Tanks? BRYAN PARRAS: And, you know, something obviously
hit one of them, because it’s—this one is tilted, right? And the other one looks like it’s been like
ripped apart, like its outer layer has just been torn off. AMY GOODMAN: So, has EPA been here? BRYAN PARRAS: To my knowledge, they have not. You know, there was a report out that said
they hadn’t been to any of the waste—to the Superfund sites. EPA had not been to any of the Superfund sites. EPA recently has issued some of their own
press releases saying that they are monitoring all of the sites. But I don’t—I haven’t heard from anyone
on the ground that has seen them. And these areas are areas where people would
fish, ski, swim, you know, despite all of the industrialization of this area. It’s still a water body, and people are
attracted to it, and they want to use it. You can’t swim. You can’t breathe. You can’t eat the seafood. It’s a wasteland. AMY GOODMAN: And we just got word that the
black smoke plume that we see in the background, just beyond the San Jacinto River, is the
Arkema chemical plant. It makes organic peroxides. An area as wide as a mile and a half has been
evacuated for days now. It looks like the plant and the local authorities
have decided to do a controlled burn of the rest of the property. It’s not clear what chemicals are there,
because the company has refused to release that information. That does it for our toxic tour of Houston. I’m Amy Goodman, for Democracy Now!

63 thoughts on “Petro Metro: A Toxic Tour of Houston from Refineries to Superfund Sites in Wake of Harvey

  1. DN needs to report on US Steel, (USX), in Baytown? Coke Plant, Sinter Plant and Blast Furnaces? Were they flooded? Superfund would be depleted by all three underwater!

  2. Why are not all the protesting organizations marching on Houston. To fight the injustice of Harvey. Help relieve they needy. BLM, white nationals (or is it patriots now?) antifa. Why don't you target your efforts to help those in need? As apposed to your own selfish desires.

  3. Please, ovoid using plastic throw away products. Bring and use reusable dishes. Boycott the fast food industry, don't give them your money. Their food is harmful to your health and their plastic waste is polluting our wourld. Vote with your dollar and buy ORGANIC NON-GMO.

  4. Make mandatory for Trump & Scott Pruitt EPA to personally do the clean-up in Houston.

    Time for Big Oil puppet politicians to get off their lazy ass and do some Real Work.

    #ImpeachTrump #Houston #HoustonFlood

  5. Next year marks the 20 year anniversary of Democracy Now's landmark investigative report entitled Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship. Well guess what…nothing has changed and oil companies are still drilling and killing with impunity.

    Source: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship: via @democracynow

  6. The Petro Chemical industry is by and large responsible for this tragedy. Contributing to global warming on the one hand and then putting all their eggs in one basket in Houston which is prone to hurricanes in the first place. This industry will suffer no consequences. It will just use it as an excuse to create a situation of artificial scarcity and increase oil prices nationwide and then take government welfare. While the people of Houston get little or no relief. This should be a wake up call that we need to move away from fossil fuels and invest money in renewable energy. But that will not happen. We will end up subsidizing this outdated and obnoxious industry and it will just happen over and over again until every drop of oil has been profited from. Meanwhile people will suffer and die. And in the end we will make this planet uninhabitable. We are in the process of killing future generations for the sake of making a handful of people rich. And rich and poor alike will all die. That is a zero-sum game.

  7. Nicotine does not cause cancer….football does not cause brain damage….oil companies does not affect the ozone layer…trump does not lie!

  8. I've thought for decades many people who try to scratch out an existence in parts of Africa near to be air lifted out. Houston needs to be completely shut down and those citizens air lifted to a safer place, too. I've never been to Houston, and this remarkable video re-enforces staying away. The Sahara is mostly uninhabitable and Petro Metro looks like a death camp.

  9. @DemocrationNow
    A reflection: Shouldn't you hide the face and change the voices of the workers (even if they could easily be identified by their employers). They may end up loosing their job for saying something wrong while they're just honest workers. Obviously, the CEO's are hiding but they're the ones who should answer your questions.

  10. Solve the problem! Give Mexico back the states that is theirs in the first place.

  11. Petro is so Retro! Get them fancy pant oil moguls all together, Ivanka and family, FOX and friends, Alex Jones and Breitbart, Betsy de Voss etc. Let's add the meat factories and gelatin producers. Make them and CEOs and stockholders live around the dinosaur juice that supports them. They will have hotels, shopping and golf courses around there instead of families that have no other alternatives who deserve to be in better areas. It'll be like a reverse buy out. We'll build a dome, the most wonderful structure anyone has ever seen and cover them up with it. Don Drumpf can still have a place he can preside over. They can keep it all to themselves. That would be a beautiful "wall".

  12. Thank God there were no Americans on the boat. Stupid illegals electrocute themselves and cost taxpayers $ to drag em out of the water. smhlmfao

  13. Thank you Democracy Now! for doing this report. You are deeply appreciate. Please don't stop! I just sent this link to my insurance company that refuses to pay for my evacuation due to the Arkema explosion. They put a 1.5 perimeter as the only area that needed a mandatory evacuation though people in Baytown were also feeling the weight of the toxins in the air. Please continue to blast this situation into the public so that people can know what is really happening here.

  14. Those dogs..a job for the youth in Asia. Whoever is responsible for those crap chem factories too. Those super fun sights don't sound fun.

  15. I noticed that the petrochemical mafia, I mean industry, is one of the few industries in this country that can pay halfway decent wages. Upton Sinclair said something about it…

  16. The American Federal/State rule of law appears to exempt Corporations,US justice system is rather pretentious choosing to victimize truth.

  17. How the fuck is it legal that the burn chemicals there and do not have to inform the public about the the actual fuck they burned there? Here we go again 3rd world country USofA surprises me once again.

  18. This "when have we seen a flood like this, it has to do with climate change" obviously meaning human caused climate change. This is really a retarded childs kind of argument. I do not know if something compared to this happened b4 but this is no proof at all that humans produced CO² has anything to do with this. But I guess I will have some self righteous people call me names now. The sun is hot, really really hot, it has circles and the universe is a huge endless expanding thing – just saying.

  19. Amy thank you, for having the courage to show this hell created by Exxon & the rest of these petro criminals who must be in prison. My love to the residents.

  20. Greetings Good Work Ms. Goodman! Mr. Bryan Parras Mexican Amercan? What! You What To Help YOU'R People You Better Get You'r Heritage Right Frist; Preacher Stop Lying Teach The Truth!!! Check Out The Chief Nanya Shaabu Eil!!!

  21. The possibilities are awe inspiring. A possible chemical equivalence of a Fukushima outcome. This terrible event has not yet claimed its maximum number of victims sadly there may be far more to be listed as the waters clear away. And, of course the end is not yet certain. There may be yet more storms to come bringing injury to insult

  22. that West, Texas chemo eXPlosion occurred the Day After the #Boston Bommb #Bing – the anniversary of the 1947 nitrous eXPlosion at #TexasCity.

  23. Tillerson should know exactly what toxic chemicals are being released in the water and air and the fact that he has not made any public statement on this is deplorable.

  24. Great work you do; FYI: this video made this online daily publication –

  25. Their very lives are dependant on oil jobs….AND let's bet there is a signed nondisclosure agreement in their employee files!!!

  26. What role does fracking and its dirty oil have on this new type of more polluting crude oil? the residents say they recently noticed the smells and THEIR throats getting worse ….When the environment gets so bad the economy and peoples daily lives are interrupted only then will our government even allow talks of climate change and immediate actions that need to be taken…GREED WILL ALWAYS WIN IN THE CORPORATE WORLD ITS BUSINESS AS USUAL .

  27. No facts presented, all speculation. Asking people with no scientific background at all "whats in the air?" You did no research at all, you have no idea how the operations of the plants works and the processes involved. Solid reporting. I love all you go green commentators, where do you think the energy to power your home and computer where you are making these unfounded comments comes from? Petrochemicals and refining of crude are in your lives, unless you want to get rid of the plastics that so many things are made of; your electronics, furniture, all types of plastics, the list goes on and on. "Toxic Tour" is right, toxic vomit coming out of your mouths. This "evil" industry puts thousands upon thousands of people to work every year all along the gulf coast, putting food on peoples plates and roofs over they're heads. A region I might add which has seen economic stability unlike your liberal safe havens and overly taxed unbalanced budget northern states. I have lost track of how many people I have met here in Houston that have moved down here because this is the only area with steady work and growth.

  28. 😂😂😂 LOL
    Let’s talk shit about the Petro Capital while driving a SUV powered by gasoline!!!
    Hahaha Hypocrites

  29. Bryan Parrassa has no idea what he is talking about. Fear mongerer. The epa highly regulates discharge. Flares burn product so it is not nasty chems released. Those shoretanks were there before the parks. Crosby was a issue cause it flooded and there wasnt toxic fumes everyday. If they dont like nornal smells they can leave. No one is holding a gun to their head making them stay and this aint California with super high home prices.

  30. Climate change. That explains their take and attitude towards the hardworking Texans. You can never trust someone who is to weak minded to see that climate change is a hoax. Yall are too brainwashed to think on your own. Galveston should be covered by water according to 1989 UN report and then Al Gores scare. In the UK the courts ruled that an Inconveniant Truth can not air on TV w/out a disclaimer that mentions 9 of the bigger lies Al Gore presented as truth

  31. I was born and raised just south of about 5 Superfund sites. I have more health issues than I can count, and many others over here are fighting horrible rare cancers or are being born with more birth defects than ever before. Idk what's being burnt, but I plan to try to move away from this side of town within the next few years.

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