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Texas officials start controlled burn at Arkema plant


Updated September 03, 2017 06:35 PM EDT

Authorities started a controlled burn Sunday of highly "unstable compounds" at a Houston area chemical plant that flooded after Hurricane Harvey.

Utility crews reportedly went door-to-door to shut off power and warn residents in the area that more flooding was possible.

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said in a statement that the decision was made to take “proactive measures” to ignite the remaining trailers at the Arkema plant in Crosby.

The office said that it doesn’t pose any additional risk to the public. Earlier, authorities ordered a 1.5-mile evacuation zone around the plant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday he expects the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to "get on top of" the contamination threat posed by flooded toxic waste sites.

"The EPA is monitoring that," Abbott told "Fox News Sunday."

"We are working with the EPA to make sure that we contain any of these chemicals harming anybody in the greater Houston area or any other place," he added.

The Houston metropolitan area is home to more than a dozen Superfund sites. A Superfund site is land that's contaminated by hazardous waste that the EPA has deemed a health or environmental threat. Many of the Superfund sites contain "industrial waste from petrochemical companies, acid compounds, solvents and pesticides," CNN reports.

In a press release, the EPA said it has already assessed 41 sites using aerial images and found 13 toxic waste sites have experienced flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey. So far, the impact of the flooding is unknown because EPA workers have been unable to safely access the sites. EPA officials said they plan to survey the sites once the floodwaters in the Houston area recede, which authorities said could take 10-15 days.

On Sunday, Abbott said there will always be a threat of contaminated water whenever there is a flood situation like the one cause by Harvey.

"What people need to do is they just need to be very cautious in the way they respond," he said. "Do things like wear gloves, wear a mask, wear clothing so that your skin is not going to brush up against what you're cleaning."

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he's comfortable with the safety of Houston's drinking water, but called on the EPA to make sure any contamination from Superfund sites is "contained and limited."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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