Harris County and Precinct 2 will receive a $1 million grant from the American Chemistry Council Foundation (ACC) to purchase air quality monitors, more stringent data analysis and collaboration with industry partners, Commissioner Adrian Garcia has announced. This is the first time the ACC Foundation has developed and awarded a local government grant for a community air-monitoring network.
“This grant is a result of conversations that began in the wake of a series of industrial incidents in Precinct 2. We learned how potentially vulnerable our industry partners were and that more needed to be done to ensure their success and not their failure,” said Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “Residents need access to reliable and timely air-quality data at all times, and especially during a chemical emergency. Thanks to this collaboration, the County will be able to address data and communications gaps to ensure residents have the information they need to make decisions about what actions to take for their families’ wellbeing in the unfortunate event dangerous chemicals are released,” he continued.
The joint effort of members of the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA), Texas Chemistry Council (TCC), American Chemistry Council (ACC) and Harris County will enhance the availability, transparency and interpretation of air monitoring data. The grant will support the following initiatives:
- The purchase of one stationary air monitor with gas chromatography capabilities. Estimated cost $350k.
- Provide funds to support the ongoing engagement of the Houston Area Research Council to receive, analyze, interpret and communicate air-monitoring data in the event of significant safety events that could affect air quality. Estimated Cost: $200k
- Provide funds to purchase handheld air monitors or other air monitoring equipment deemed appropriate to augment current and future County air monitoring capabilities at key locations around the Houston Ship Channel. Estimated Costs: $450k
“The chemical industry is deeply integrated into the communities and economies of Harris County. Our companies take their responsibility to be good neighbors very seriously,” President and CEO of ACC Chris Jahn said.
“Local industry reached out to Commissioner Garcia soon after several incidents in the first quarter of 2019 and shared with him our commitment to learn from the events. In 2020 and beyond we will be focused on encouraging strong safety performance throughout the chemical industry and among our commercial partners including those in the transportation, distribution and storage sectors. We look forward to collaborating with Harris County, Precinct 2 and the citizens of east Harris County,” Jahn added.
“Chemical manufacturers operating in Harris County have high standards of operational safety and environmental performance. Process Safety Management ideals and lessons learned have helped industry continuously improve safety performance over the past several decades,” EHCMA Board Chairman Gary Piana explained. “Through this grant, we are pledging to both Harris County and the citizens of east Harris County that we are committed to making further enhancements to our safety performance, communication and transparency.”
Piana also pointed out that industry is making private air monitoring data available to TCEQ and Harris County to ensure they have the data necessary to make informed decisions about public health and safety during industry events. The Houston Regional Monitoring network board approved providing monitoring data to Harris County during a recent board meeting. Industry members reinforced a commitment to work with Harris County and to develop a model that can be used in other jurisdictions in the region and across the nation.
“Industry values the partnership with Harris County, especially Commissioner Garcia in Precinct 2 where many of our industry facilities operate,” President of TCC Hector Rivero said. “Our members are committed to working with Harris County and the local cities, and developing a model that will enhance similar collaborative working relationships in the region and across the nation.”
In addition to the $1 million grant, the industry group is also proposing to provide Harris County with specific air monitor data that can help inform public health and safety decisions in the event of an incident. Additionally, industry will develop an “Industry 101” program that can help educate government officials and first responders about industry facilities and operations.
“This is a significant first step toward ensuring Harris County becomes a national model and leads the way in collaboration between industry, community organizations and government to promote a healthy and economically strong area. Together we can work to ensure our residents feel safe, engaged and educated about our industry neighbors,” Commissioner Garcia said.