Over 60 ships remain stranded, unable to enter the Houston Ship Channel due to its closure after a cloud of cancer-causing benzene rose following a tank fire.
According to the US Coast Guard, the channel will be reopened only after the benzene has dissipated and the oily runoff no longer poses a threat to vessels or their crews, Claims Journal reported.
The channel, which does not serve as a source of drinking water, is one of North America's busiest commercial shipping facilities.
The fire, which broke out on last Sunday, involved an Intercontinental Terminals Co.’s (ITC) chemical storage facility in Deer Park, Houston. Extinguished three days later, the blaze released over 9 million pounds of pollutants into the air, including large amounts of benzene.
On Sunday, ITC succeeded in emptying over half a million gallons of toxic liquid from an onshore tank destroyed in the blaze. The company is still pumping out the contents of two tanks, and preparing to do the same for two others.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency's Adam Adams, benzene levels over suburban Deer Park are still lower than "harmful," Claims Journal added.
The US Chemical Safety Board will investigate the fire.