Potentially hazardous sites not considered local threat

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POSTED: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 6:08pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 8:27am

"There is industrial parks within Cameron County, and not only do those industrial parks - some of them hold hazardous materials, there's also kinds of chemicals that are used to create whatever byproduct or whatever product they're trying to create," said Cameron County emergency management coordinator Humberto Barrera.

At least one in five schools in Texas are located in the vicinity of a plant or industrial site that contains hazardous materials that can affect the air we breathe.

In a rare, worst-case scenario, disastrous events can happen, like the fertilizer plant explosion that occurred in West, Texas last year.

Schools like this one, located near potentially hazardous plants, each have their own safety policies, but they're all incident-based.

"It all depends on the type of incident of course," said BISD emergency manager Anna Aguilar. "A minor leak, we may just shelter in place, which will hold us off and by that we turn off the air intake systems and hold the fort while we determine what kind of chemical we're dealing with."

But on the flip side, too many chemicals are definitely cause for concern.

"Now we see too much...too many side effects, physical effects toward this chemical, then at that point we may need to up and alter the entire campus to an alternate location," said Aguilar.

"We have located where these hazardous materials are at," said Barrera. "The companies report to us what they have, if they changed the chemicals in their inventory or they add something."

"Our risk management plan calls for any type of evacuation, eventualities," said Brownsville Public Utilities Board spokesman Ryan Greenfield. "We also, we work very closely with BISD and some of the schools we have nearby our facilities to make sure that they and we are ready for any eventuality."

Because these incidents are so rare though, officials say the potential dangers are nothing to fret over:

"There is a lot of schools," said Barrera. "There's houses, there's communities near these industrial parks, and the question is, 'is it safe to have these houses?', 'is it safe to live next to an industrial park?' and absolutely it is."

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