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Evacuation lifted around Arkema’s Crosby site

Safety officials burned six remaining trailers of flammable organic peroxides

by Melody M. Bomgardner
September 5, 2017

Credit: AP
Trailers of organic peroxides exploded and caught fire at Arkema's Crosby, Texas site on Sept. 1.

Residents living near the flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, were allowed to return to their homes early Monday, a day after federal, state, and local safety officials coordinated with Arkema to ignite flammable containers of organic peroxides at the site that posed explosion and fire dangers.

Evacuation orders were first issued by local officials on Tuesday, Aug. 29 in response to danger posed by the organic peroxides after Tropical Storm Harvey flooded the plant with close to two meters of water.

The facility, 43 km northeast of Houston, lost primary and backup power systems used to keep the peroxides cool. As the chemicals warmed up they began to degrade. Three trailers of stored chemicals exploded on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, and six remaining ones were expected to explode as well.

Arkema did not specify exactly how officials ignited the six containers, but after being ignited, they burned themselves out.

Later on Monday, Rich Rowe, the CEO of Arkema’s U.S. operations, apologized to the facility’s residential neighbors. “I hope that they can know how profoundly sorry we are for the impact we had on their lives. And how committed we are to working with them to bring their lives back to normal,” Rowe said at a press conference.

Residents were not given advance warning that the six trailers would be purposely set on fire. But Rich Rennard, Arkema U.S.’s president, said that aerial surveillance showed that peroxides were leaking from the containers. “At that point we made the decision that, in order to maintain the safety and security of the site and the area for the residents, a more aggressive approach was necessary.”

Air quality monitoring shows the area is safe, Arkema says, but residents should contact the company for help in cleaning up any ash or other debris on their property. The company set up a phone hotline and an office at the local high school to help residents submit claims. It says it is committed to helping them get back on their feet after the twin disasters of Harvey and the Crosby site explosions.

Related stories:

Arkema discloses chemicals, quantities at risk in Texas
After Harvey, Texas faces massive cleanup
Tropical Storm Harvey causes disruptions, emissions, and explosions in Houston area



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Saeed Karimipour (September 5, 2017 11:37 PM)
As long as Arkema knew that the residents around the plant would not be affected by the contained fires, I believe they did the right thing. I think, however, that a different company should be checking the quality of the air because if arkema messed up, chances are, they don't want the public to know that they released toxic gases. With all this being said, It seems as if Arkema is doing their best to help out the residents of the affected area, making a hotline and doing everything they can to help. A warning to the residents would have been the right way to go about this, because if this went bad then a whole lot of people couldve been hurt.
Emma (September 6, 2017 9:18 AM)
I'm very surprised by the amount of chemical and power plants that have been greatly affected by natural disasters in these past few years. Going forward, wouldn't it make sense for the government to have some sort of regulations on the positions of plants containing highly dangerous and risk worthy materials. Plants located in areas susceptible to floods and hurricanes risk billions with every storm season, and I think to consider the financial and health impact of such disasters with all plants would be best. While these companies offer incredible economic prosperity to areas, it might be best if the location and proximity to civilians were highly prioritized and regulated. Still, I feel this company handled the situation incredibly well, and the damages are extremely tragic.

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