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Industrial Safety

Arkema faces additional indictments for chemical releases after Tropical Storm Harvey

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
April 12, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 15


Aerial photo showing burned trailers.
Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters/Newscom
Organic peroxides ignited at Arkema's flooded plant in Crosby, Texas, after Tropical Storm Harvey.

A Texas grand jury has indicted Arkema and one of its executives with the felony offense of causing bodily injury to two sheriffs’ deputies during a 2017 fire at a plant near Houston. The fire occurred when catastrophic flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey knocked out the facility’s electricity, which is needed to refrigerate and stabilize some 159,000 kg of reactive organic peroxides stored at the plant. A portion of the chemicals decomposed and caught fire; the company eventually purposely burned all the organic peroxides to end the emergency. The release caused 21 people to seek medical care. The new indictment, announced April 10, joins earlier ones lodged against the company and two executives by a grand jury. “The facts show Arkema knew of the dangers, withheld vital information, and unleashed harm on first responders and the community,” Harris County district attorney Kim Ogg says in a statement. Arkema in a statement calls the indictment “an unprecedented and outrageous attempt to criminalize a natural disaster. . . . We can only conclude that with a May trial date looming, prosecutors realize they can’t prove the previous charges and are grasping at straws.”


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