The Latest: Official: Probe of fire at facility to take time

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on fire damage at a petrochemical storage facility that led to a partial closure of the Houston Ship Channel (all times local):

5:10 p.m.

Officials say they continue investigating the cause of a fire at a Houston-area petrochemical storage facility but have still not been able to visit the site of the blaze due to ongoing clean up efforts.

Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said Monday afternoon officials have delivered a subpoena to Intercontinental Terminals Company, the firm that owns the facility, to preserve any evidence regarding the cause of the blaze.

Christensen says the subpoena is standard practice in such a probe and ITC officials have been cooperative in the investigation.

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Christensen could not say how long the investigation of the fire at ITC’s facility in Deer Park would take, adding that “it will take time.”

County officials said Monday the incident continues to be overall a low health risk to the community.

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11:30 a.m.

A U.S. Coast Guard official says it could be several more days before a section of the Houston Ship Channel closed amid cleanup efforts after a fire at a petrochemical storage facility is reopened.

Coast Guard Capt. Kevin Oditt said Monday that officials let one ship pass through the affected area Sunday. Oditt said that ship didn’t interfere with the cleanup and didn’t get contaminated.

Oditt says additional test runs with four more ships and barges were set to be done on Monday. Crews are cleaning up after products from storage tanks at the facility leaked into the ship channel following the March 17 fire. The tanks contained components of gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner.

Intercontinental Terminals Company says it continues emptying the damaged tanks.

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9:30 a.m.

Students are returning to school in an area southeast of Houston after a fire at a petrochemical storage facility prompted several days of canceled classes.

Students were back in class Monday in Deer Park, Galena Park and other communities near the International Terminals Company in Deer Park. Classes were canceled because of concerns over air quality near the facility, which caught fire on March 17 and burned for several days.

The fire destroyed or damaged storage tanks that contained components of gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glues and paint thinner. Elevated levels of benzene were detected in the air Thursday, prompting officials to order people to remain indoors.

The fire also led to the closure of part of the Houston Ship Channel. The U.S. Coast Guard says it hopes to have the channel reopened Monday.

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