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Freeport Officials Angry at Dow Chemical's Response to Leak

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on July 10, 2015 - 8:44pm

By: Natasha Barrett

FREEPORT, TX (KTRK) -- Lots of people are upset at not being notified about a problem at a Dow Chemical plant in Freeport.

The company's plant in Freeport released Thursday morning trace amounts of hydrocarbons as a result of "a process upset." Nearby residents and employees were asked to stay indoors as a precaution, and Highway 332 between Highway 288 and Highway 523 was shut down for several hours.

ABC-13's Elissa Rivas shared this photo of the road closure near the Dow site:

However, countless City of Freeport officials tell Eyewitness News Dow dropped the ball on this incident and they are angry.

After many communication issues with past incidents, the City of Freeport says they thought there was an emergency plan in place to let people know what is going on.

But right after Thursday's chemical leak, Freeport officials says, Dow only told Brazozoria County officials, not them.

Dow plant employee Don Adams was supposed to go to work Thursday morning, but was told to go home.

Adams said, "We've had these things happen before, it's just part of the game."

But Adams also says he did not know about the chemical leak at Dow Chemical's Oyster Creek Plant.

"We're on a need-to-know basis and I guess they figure I don't need to know, so they keep me outside the loop," he said.

Turns out, somebody forgot to also tell the City of Freeport, where the Dow Plant is located and more than 12,000 people live. In fact, we were the ones who told them about the emergency.

"I learned this morning turning on Channel 13 news. Then, I called my fire chief, emergency management. We were not informed of it. It's very concerning," Freeport City Manager Jeff Pynes said.

Digging further into city records, we also discovered a letter from Freeport's Fire Chief; it was sent last year to several plants, including Dow. Part of it said, '...We believe there are significant deficiencies in the emergency response capabilities of this region.'

There is a system put in place to notify and respond in the event of a plant emergency. It is called CAER, it stands for Community Awareness and Emergency Response. However, CAER did not notify the City of Freeport on Thursday.

Back to that letter from last year, The Freeport Fire Chief called Brazosport Industrial CAER Line, '...quite certainly inadequate.'

Pynes also said, "We can't be left in the dark while we are trying to protect our community."

In response to our story, Dow released this statement:

"In the future, more direct efforts will be made for Dow officials to also contact Freeport City Management in order to provide up to date information."

Nobody was hurt during the chemical leak. Dow says there was no safety hazard to the community.

Originally Published: ABC 13

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