Arkema expects chemical fire at flooded Texas plant

Lucy Hill
August 31, 2017

Plant officials shut the facility down on Friday ahead of Hurricane Harvey making landfall, with just 11 emergency workers left behind to monitor the situation, KTRK-TV said.

Similar chemicals actually caught fire at the now infamous fertilizer plant in West, and the explosion left the site and the surrounding town looking like a bomb had been dropped on it.

That day, residents within 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby were evacuated as a "precautionary measure", the local fire marshal's office said in a Twitter message.

Arkema employees attempted to transfer the hazardous materials from the warehouse to diesel-powered refrigerator containers until officials deemed the situation too risky. The building is without power, and severe flooding has inundated back-up generators.

The plant, one of five operated by Arkema in Texas, produces peroxides that are used to make plastics and rubbers.

Janelle Bludau | Twitter
Janelle Bludau | Twitter

Once government officials saw the chemical inventories for the facility, they ordered another evacuation Tuesday night; the immediate removal of residents from about 300 homes within a mile and a half of the plant. The company said in the release.

The plant's owner said the situation at its plant in Crosby about 40km north east of Houston "has become serious".

Arkema evacuated the site on Monday.

The company said some refrigeration of back-up containers has been compromised because of high-water levels, and the company is monitoring temperature levels remotely.

The reason this was such a big deal is because the primary challenge to getting the Arkema plant through the storm safely has been ensuring the products, which are supposed to be stored at very low temperatures, keep cool. The company said in a site status update that regulatory agencies have also been notified of the situation.

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