First Responders File Suit Against Texas Chemical Company

Posted on 9/11/2017 by Roger Marks

“Our employees acted in the same honorable and heroic way that thousands of other citizens in Harris County did when confronted with an unprecedented tragedy. They did everything they could to protect the public, while fighting fast-rising flood waters that were 5 to 7 feet high at our plant. We totally cooperated with all first responders and the numerous regulatory agencies working with us to keep the public safe.”

-Chemical facility spokesperson
Seven individuals who responded to the flooded Arkema organic peroxides plant in Crosby, TX during Hurricane Harvey have now filed suit against the company.

The suit alleges that Arkema failed to take steps to better prepare for the type of catastrophic flooding that occurred in the week following Harvey’s landfall in the Houston area. When, on August 31, organic peroxide containers began “exploding” due to the failure of back-up refrigeration, police officers and other first responders fell ill immediately.

From the lawsuit:

“The scene was nothing less than chaos. Police officers were doubled over vomiting, unable to breath. Medical personnel, in their attempts to provide assistance to officers, became overwhelmed and they too began to vomit and gasp for air.”

The suit goes on to allege that the owner of the chemical plant displayed negligence in the following ways:
  • Failure to properly store chemicals
  • Failure to have proper procedures for backup refrigeration of chemicals
  • Failure to have adequate procedures in place to protect the safety and welfare of the community in the event of a catastrophe
  • Failure to provide the public and first responders accurate information on the chemicals at risk of exploding
  • Failure to implement company- and government-mandated procedures for handling chemicals
  • Failure to adequately prepare for a major flood event, having had the knowledge that such an event was foreseeable

Preparing for Chemical Industry Nightmare Scenarios
Chemical facilities in the US are subject to stringent reporting and recordkeeping requirements under various environmental programs—the Clean Air Act, EPCRA, CERCLA, TSCA, and others. Under the Clean Air Act Risk Management Plan (RMP) requirements, for example, facilities that use large volumes of flammable or toxic substances must submit a written, certified risk management plan to US EPA. This plan must include plans for a “worst-case scenario” as well as prevention and emergency response details.

Earlier this year, US EPA delayed the implementation of new, more stringent Clean Air Act RMP requirements finalized in late 2016. 

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Tags: Act, Air, Clean, emergency preparedness, EPA, hazardous chemicals, RMP

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