As Tropical Storm Harvey continues into Louisiana on Wednesday, the hurricane-battered refineries in its wake are leaving residents of the Texas coast to cope with more than two million pounds of dangerous or carcinogenic chemicals that have been released into the air, Politico reports. "It's adding to the cancer risk to the community and well as respiratory problems," said Luke Metzger, the director of Environment Texas, a nonprofit environmental research organization.
Metzger added to The Washington Post that "most of the unauthorized emissions come from the process of shutting down, and then starting up, the various units of the plant, when pollution control devices can't be operated properly and there's lots of flaring." Thirteen refineries shut down due to the storm, while five others had to significantly slow operations.
As a result of Harvey, refineries in the Gulf of Mexico released an amount of chemicals equivalent to what was released on average during a three-month period in 2016. "The big spike in releases, which include carcinogenic benzene and nitrogen oxide, will add an environmental and long-term health risk to the region," Politico writes.