Explosion Risk at Arkema Plant in Texas Forces Evacuations

Tammy Harvey
August 31, 2017

The company said that more than 40 inches of rain had already fallen and the site was "heavily flooded" and without electricity since early Sunday morning.

"At the time, while we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real".

Late Monday night, the facility lost power from both its primary supply and its backup generators.

The refrigeration system at the chemical plant, which produces organic peroxides for the plastics and rubber industries, has failed due to the Harvey flooding, the company said.

Organic peroxides need to be kept cool, otherwise they may explode.

The Crosby Fire Department evacuated its last employee Tuesday night. Later in the day, the Harris County Fire Marshals evacuated residents within 1.5 miles of the plant as a "precautionary measure". He said while the company planned for a worst case scenario, and even brought on extra generators to account for any power loss, the magnitude of the storm overwhelmed the company's plan.

The company said it tried to transfer products from warehouses into diesel-powered refrigerated containers, but Tuesday afternoon it decided the danger was great enough to evacuate workers. In other words, it makes sense Arkema and local, state and federal officials didn't fool around once the situation became clear. Rowe described this evacuation radius as "conservative", and said he expects that the effects of a fire or explosion would be contained on the site's facilities.

Although the plant closed Friday, the company now has 11 employees who are scheduled to ride out Hurricane Harvey, the Chronicle reported.

Rowe did not disclose the volume of chemicals on the site and said it was speculative to predict how much damage the plant could sustain.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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