As clean up continues from the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, a private company in the Houston area has agreed to store and dispose the toxic liquids.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) told reporters in an email that Texas Molecular in Deer Park is receiving the liquid waste for storage and disposal.
“TM Deer Park is authorized to accept and manage a variety of waste streams, including vinyl chloride, as part of their RCRA hazardous waste permit and underground injection control permit,” a spokesperson for the agency said.
Several of the train cars that crashed were carrying vinyl chloride, which erupted into a massive blaze.
“It’s an organic compound, and it’s very, very toxic,” Dr. George Guillen, the executive director of the Environmental Institute of Houston, said. “You certainly wouldn’t want to get it in your system.”
Texas Molecular’s website reads that they provide “responsible and safe treatment and disposal solutions for even those most challenging industrial hazardous aqueous waste and wastewaters.”
The private company specializes in deep well injection, which allows them to inject the hazardous waste thousands of feet into the ground for disposal.
Guillen, who also serves as a biology and environmental science professor at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, said that is a common practice, and there should be minimal health risks to Deer Park residents.
“This injection, in some cases, is usually 4,000 or 5,000 feet down below any kind of drinking water aquifer,” he said. “Could it come up some day? Yes, maybe, but hundreds of years from now or thousands of years from now.”
Guillen said the risk lies in the transport of the chemicals for more than 1,300 miles from East Palestine to Deer Park.
Deer Park resident Tammy Baxter has a similar concern. She first heard that the waste may be transported to the city she lives in from a video circulating on social media.
“It was a TikTok where they were calling out for truckers,” Baxter explained. “The rumor behind the call for truckers was that this was what they were transporting. I made a call to the mayor’s office in Deer Park.”
Baxter said she expected a return phone call dispelling the rumor. Instead, it was confirmed.
“I am disturbed,” Baxter said. “I am shook by the information.”
Both Guillen and Baxter brought up the possibility of a crash during the transport that could cause another hazardous situation.
“There has to be a closer deep well injection,” Baxter explained. “It’s foolish to put it on the roadway. We have accidents on a regular basis. Do they really want to have another contamination zone? It is silly to move it that far.”
When asked for comment, Texas Molecular told reporters, “We communicate directly with our stakeholders including the City of Deer Park, The Deer Park Citizens Advisory Council, the Deer Park Local Emergency Committee, our employees, the TCEQ, the EPA, and local elected officials.”
Reporters also reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to find out exactly what chemicals were being transported and when but has not heard back.