The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Second Houston-Area Chemical Plant Fire in Weeks Kills One, Injures Two
One person has died and two have been critically injured in the second fire to break out at a Houston-area chemical plant in little more than two weeks.
The fire started Tuesday at the KMCO plant in Crosby, Texas when a transfer line ignited near a tank of the flammable gas isobutylene, the Associated Press reported. Workers rushed to escape the blaze by climbing over a fence, and a cloud of black smoke billowed into the air.
"It shook everybody's house around here," Samantha Galle, who lives about a mile away from the plant, told the Associated Press.
The incident follows a fire at an Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) plant in Deer Park on March 17. That fire did not injure anyone, but it did burn for several days, prompting air quality warnings.
"It is disturbing and it is problematic that we're seeing this incident in a facility, especially on the heels of ITC," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a media briefing.
The Crosby fire was extinguished after a five-and-a-half hour battle by firefighters, according to the fire marshal's office. A shelter-in-place order for those within a mile of the fire was lifted around 3 p.m. It had included a mandate that people close windows and turn off air conditioning units, NBC News reported.
Initial U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests indicate that the air is safe.
"We have not seen any detections at action levels," EPA on-scene coordinator Matt Loesel told CNN.
The two workers who were injured were taken by helicopter to a hospital.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals involved, as well as our first responders, employees, and our community," KMCO president John C. Foley told CNN. "We apologize for any inconvenience to residents in the vicinity. The well-being of our people, neighbors and the environment remain our top priorities."
However, NBC News reported that the KMCO plant has a history of environmental violations:
- A 2018 EPA report found violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which covers the handling of hazardous materials and non-hazardous solid waste.
- EPA inspections also found violations of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts
- KMCO settled with Harris County in 2009 when it was sued for discharging waste water polluted with excess levels of ammonia, zinc and copper, among other toxins.
- Harris County sued KMCO again over state air and water violations in 2017.
- First Responders Sickened by Toxic Fumes Sue Chemical Plant ... ›
- Arkema Plant Explosion Sparks Criticism of Trump EPA Relaxing ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jake Johnson
Just over a month after proclaiming that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. would soon "be down to close to zero," President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on the White House lawn Sunday that limiting U.S. deaths from the pandemic to between 100,000 and 200,000 people would mean his administration and the country as a whole did "a very good job."
Documents unearthed in a lawsuit brought by a Missouri farmer who claimed that Monsanto and German chemical maker BASF's dicamba herbicide ruined his peach orchard revealed that the two companies knew their new agricultural seed and chemical system would likely damage many U.S. farms, according to documents seen by The Guardian.
By Albert Van Dijk, Luigi Renzullo, Marta Yebra and Shoshana Rapley
2019 was the year Australians confronted the fact that a healthy environment is more than just a pretty waterfall in a national park; a nice extra we can do without. We do not survive without air to breathe, water to drink, soil to grow food and weather we can cope with.
By Fino Menezes
Everyone adores dolphins. Intelligent, inquisitive and playful, these special creatures have captivated humans since the dawn of time. But dolphins didn't get to where they are by accident — they needed to develop some pretty amazing superpowers to cope with their environment.