Quantcast

2 Explosions Reported at Houston-Area Chemical Plant Damaged by Harvey Floods

Climate
www.youtube.com

Two explosions and black smoke were reported from an Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas—about 25 miles outside of Houston—on Thursday morning.

The facility, which was swamped by six feet of water from Hurricane Harvey's unprecedented flooding, manufacturers organic peroxides for the production of plastic resins, polystyrene, paints and other products. As the New York Times explained, these chemicals must be kept in cold storage because when they warm up they begin to decompose and create heat, which can lead to an explosion.


Harris County officials had already ordered an evacuation zone in an area 1.5 miles from the damaged plant.

Arkema said the flooding from Harvey "overwhelmed our primary power and two sources of emergency backup power. As a result, we lost critical refrigeration of the products on site. Some of our organic peroxides products burn if not stored at low temperature."

The French chemical company said it did not move the chemicals before the hurricane but made extensive preparations. According to the Times, the plant shuttered last Friday in anticipation of the storm while a small crew stayed on site to make sure that the chemicals remained safe and in cold storage. But Harvey's historic flooding had stripped the plant of power since Sunday. As the storage warehouse warmed, the crew transferred the chemicals to refrigerated trailers powered by generators, but the flooding damaged some of the backup power as well.

Richard Rowe, the chief executive of Arkema's North American division, told Reuters that the company had expected the chemicals to catch fire and explode if they were not properly cooled.

After the explosion, one Harris County deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the plant and nine others drove themselves to hospital as precaution, the Harris County Sheriff's Office tweeted. The office later tweeted that company officials believed that the smoke inhaled by the 10 deputies near the plant was "a nontoxic irritant."

"We want local residents to be aware that the product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains," Arkema warned.

"Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out."

Numerous chemical plants and refineries, including ones owned by companies like Exxon and Shell, have shut down or gone offline in the wake of Harvey, emitting more than one million pounds of air pollution. Houston now faces an additional risk of toxic petrochemical chemical spills into nearby communities.

Harvey, now downgraded to a tropical depression, is linked to climate change, the World Meteorological Organization said Tuesday.

Just a couple of weeks before the disaster, President Trump announced he was undoing a previous order by President Obama designed to improve "climate resilience" and protect critical infrastructure threatened by climate change.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Wesley Martinez Da Costa / EyeEm / Getty Images

By David R. Montgomery

Would it sound too good to be true if I was to say that there was a simple, profitable and underused agricultural method to help feed everybody, cool the planet, and revitalize rural America? I used to think so, until I started visiting farmers who are restoring fertility to their land, stashing a lot of carbon in their soil, and returning healthy profitability to family farms. Now I've come to see how restoring soil health would prove as good for farmers and rural economies as it would for the environment.

Read More Show Less
skaman306 / Moment / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Radish (Raphanus sativus) is a cruciferous vegetable that originated in Asia and Europe (1Trusted Source).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Tinnakorn Jorruang / iStock / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

The budding research on cannabidiol, or CBD, attracts a great deal of interest in the agricultural field.

Read More Show Less
Oksana Khodakovskaia / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a tree native to China that's prized for its sweet, citrus-like fruit.

Read More Show Less

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new numbers that show vaping-related lung illnesses are continuing to grow across the country, as the number of fatalities has climbed to 33 and hospitalizations have reached 1,479 cases, according to a CDC update.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
During the summer, the Arctic tundra is usually a thriving habitat for mammals such as the Arctic fox. Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Reports of extreme snowfall in the Arctic might seem encouraging, given that the region is rapidly warming due to human-driven climate change. According to a new study, however, the snow could actually pose a major threat to the normal reproductive cycles of Arctic wildlife.

Read More Show Less
Vegan rice and garbanzo beans meals. Ella Olsson / Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

One common concern about vegan diets is whether they provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs.

Many claim that a whole-food, plant-based diet easily meets all the daily nutrient requirements.

Read More Show Less
A fracking well looms over a residential area of Liberty, Colorado on Aug. 19. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

A new multiyear study found that people living or working within 2,000 feet, or nearly half a mile, of a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drill site may be at a heightened risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals, according to research released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)

Read More Show Less