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TX Evacuation Lifted After Chemical Plant Fires Burn

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

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Officials have confirmed that there is no longer a threat of explosions at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, after several of its trailers were ignited in a controlled burn over the weekend, effectively ending the evacuation of the surrounding area.

The plant, which produces chemicals used in acrylic resins as well as PVC, fiberglass and other products, lost power due to Hurricane Harvey, resulting in a loss of the refrigeration that kept the company’s liquide organic peroxides stable.


Arkema’s Crosby, Texas plant lost power due to Hurricane Harvey, resulting in a loss of the refrigeration which kept the company’s liquid organic peroxides stable.

The plant was evacuated last Tuesday (Aug. 29) when the threat of fire was first recognized. An area within 1.5 miles of the plant was evacuated last Wednesday in anticipation of the explosions at the plant, though the evacuation was reportedly not mandatory.

Then, early Thursday morning, a series of small explosions triggered fires in three of the plant's trailers. Arkema officials at the time warned that more explosions could be forthcoming.

Controlled Burn

On Saturday (Sept. 2), officials saw signs of decomposition of the peroxide in the remaining trailers, according to the Houston Chronicle. The decomposed peroxide did not catch fire, but was also found leaking out of various trailers. This prompted officials to begin the controlled burn on Sunday (Sept. 3).

In a move to “minimize the impacts to the community,” according to the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office, the remaining six trailers were ignited. Officials said that, with the flooding and the danger of the decomposing chemicals, moving them out of the area, away from residents, was not feasible.

"For us to be in a position where we were going to put that material into trailers and try to move it, it runs the risk of not being able to get it out of the area or getting it stuck in traffic, or having a fire or an explosion at a highway or at a public area, versus in the rural area where this site is," Daryl Roberts, an Arkema safety official, told the Houston Chronicle

Local Reaction

While the company did issue a press release detailing destruction efforts late Sunday (Sept. 3) afternoon, local residents claim that smoke was visible over an hour before, and some residents maintain that the company had not been transparent throughout the process.

Arkema officials had reportedly failed to disclose what chemicals were in its inventory, which was later rectified, but further details on where dangerous chemicals were located were not divulged, either.

Initially, a spokesperson for Arkema claimed that a detailed report could be obtained from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but this was also later refuted by the TCEQ, which noted that the French company is free to release information on the Tier Tower chemical inventory.

Three of the trailers containing these chemicals burned, but Harris County officials eliminated the remaining six with a controlled burn. Nearby residents could return to their flood-damaged homes as of Monday (Sept. 4), but many felt the company had not been forthright during procedures.

Although the evacuation was lifted Monday (Sept. 4), some local residents are considering suing the company for being kept away from their homes.

Currently, according to ABC, there is ongoing air quality testing in the area, but no issues with the results have come to light as yet.


Tagged categories: Arkema Inc.; Coatings raw materials manufacturers; Fire; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America

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