Federal researchers said Wednesday they have seen no signs that a Houston-area chemical plant that flooded and partially exploded during the Hurricane Harvey considered the move of the very unstable connections offsite as a precaution.
Many of Arkema Inc.’s facility in Crosby, just outside of Houston, was placed in the 100-year flood plain in 2007. But the emergency response plan, revised as recently as 2016, provides little direction for containing floods.
A copy of the plan reviewed by the Associated Press says simply that “care should be taken to ensure that the water is held” of buildings. A log Arkema held of the employees of the efforts of the protection of the plant not to mention move of the organic peroxides, which are used in a range of products from plastic to paint.
The company did not answer questions Wednesday about the question or discussed it or tried to move the chemicals.
“The installation was not prepared for such heavy rain,” US Chemical Safety Board Chairman Vanessa Allen Sutherland said during a press conference. She called the move of chemicals as a safety precaution, companies may use.
The Chemical Safety Board is one of several federal, state and local authorities investigating the incident. Arkema also facing lawsuits from workers and residents who say they became sick after exposure to toxic substances released by the fire and explosions.
As Harvey dumped record-setting rain of last August, Arkema plant lost power. Back-up generators, sitting just 2 meters above the ground, were swallowed up by the increase of the storm waters. Cooling systems ultimately failed, leading to organic peroxides destabilize, and in the fire flies.
Arkema officials have insisted that they plan as best they could and didn’t expect such unprecedented rainfall, based in part on their experience with other hurricanes and storms that struck the Texas Gulf Coast.
The National Hurricane Center warned two days before the plant was flooded out places around Houston could get over 50 inches (130 cm).
“Our Crosby site has never had floods everywhere as we saw in Harvey, because we purchased the property in 1960,” Arkema spokeswoman Janet Smith said Wednesday. “Even during the Tropical Storm Alison, which caused severe flooding in Houston, we were able to drive trucks around our Crosby plant.”