Fuels storage operator faces added costs for March fire and chemical spill

The costs of a massive fire and chemical spill at a Houston petrochemical facility have begun trickling out, with a local official on Monday estimating emergency response costs at $800,000 for the first two weeks of the disaster alone.

A blaze at Mitsui & Co Ltd's Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) petrochemical facility in Deer Park, Texas, last month released cancer-causing chemicals into the air and waterway that connects Houston to the Gulf of Mexico, disrupting shipping along the nation's busiest oil port.

County employees devoted 16,800 hours to firefighting, pollution control, public health and law enforcement departments, Shain Carrizal, a Harris County director of finance, said of the $800,000 estimate. The county plans to submit the bill to ITC after final calculations are made, as well as additional bills for labor and equipment costs in the future, he said.

Costs are likely to soar, with clean up operations continuing and local businesses affected by orders for area residents to stay indoors and refinery output reduced by shipping disruptions. In addition to fire and pollution control, the county provided medical care to more than 1,400 residents who live near the site following the blaze, officials said.

ITC faces lawsuits by state and county government over air and water pollution releases. Federal and state investigations into ITC's response also are continuing.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, an ITC executive has said the company would apply insurance and available financial resources to pay for the local government costs. (Reporting by Collin Eaton in Houston Editing by Tom Brown)

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