Harvey-flooded chemical plant in Crosby reportedly explodes

A flooded-out chemical plant in Crosby that was expected to explode has reportedly done just that, its owner said early Thursday.

Arkema Inc. said the Harris County Emergency Operations Center notified the company at 2 a.m. Thursday of two explosions and black smoke coming from its Crosby plant, which was inundated by Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters. 

The development comes a day after Arkema warned that the organic peroxides used in the site’s manufacturing process had begun to heat up after the plant lost its primary source of power and backup power from generators. Without electricity to power refrigeration, the chemicals were expected to degrade, possibly leading to some type of explosion or fire.

The facility evacuated all its employees Tuesday, and approximately 300 people living within 1.5 miles of the plant had been voluntarily evacuated as well. 

“We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.” 

The threat of additional explosions lingers, Arkema said, because it stored its product at multiple locations on site.

“Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so,” the company’s statement said.

On Wednesday, Rich Rowe, Arkema’s president and CEO, said a fire on site was “nothing that would pose any long-term harm or impact,” and that any sustained environmental impact would be “minimal.”

The plant, which is located northeast of Houston, was shut down on Friday in anticipation of the hurricane. None of the plant’s chemical inventory was relocated prior to the storm.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/08/31/harvey-flooded-chemical-plant-crosby-reportedly-explodes/.


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