Arkema plant catches fire, explodes

The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby had multiple fires and explosions, due to flooding and power failure of refrigerated chemicals.
The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby had multiple fires and explosions, due to flooding and power failure of refrigerated chemicals.

Evacuation zone around Crosby chemical plant

CROSBY – Locals are returning home near the Arkema Chemical Plant in the 18,000 block of Crosby Eastgate, that was subject to explosions and fires for almost a week now as of Monday, Sept. 4, now to contend with flooding issues that arose from Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Harvey.

Officials say that an active investigation of the Arkema incidents are underway.

The area was evacuated on August 29 at about 2:00 p.m. and US 90 closed at Bohemian Hall. Inquiring residents were told the evacuation was mandatory for 1.5 miles from the plant and that if there were explosions they would not be dangerous outside that area. The closing of US 90 was backed up to Lindstrom Road the following day.

On August 31, the first of a series of fires errupted inside the plant at about 2:00 a.m. Irritated eyes and throats of about 15 law enforcement officers were reported by Sheriff Ed Gonzales of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

One officer was taken to the hospital and so were ambulance crews. All were observed at the hospital and treated and released. More over other first responders were injured by the fumes and remnant of the “flare off.”

At a press conference on August 31, the Sheriff, and Arkema representatives faced the press at Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. Station 2. Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. had insisted that Arkema officials face the press concerning events at their plant. Arkema representatives indicated the plant would catch fire and there would be explosions, indicating that there was nothing they could do about it. Richard Rennerd, President of Arkema’s Acrylic Monomers division, addressed reporters Thursday, calling the plume of smoke “an irritant,” but declined to explain further. He warned that inhaling the smoke emanating from the blaze could still pose health risks to the lungs and eyes, “like any fire.”

Arkema also indicated via their website, “As we communicated in recent days, our site followed its hurricane preparation plan in advance of the recent hurricane and we had redundant contingency plans in place. However, unprecedented flooding 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.

We have been working closely with public officials to manage the implications of this situation, and have communicated with the public the potential for product to explode and cause an intense fire. Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, as agreed with public officials, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.

We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains. Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Brock Long, an administrator, said Thursday that “plume modeling,” predicted “By all means, the plume is incredibly dangerous.”

For a while on Sept. 1, US 90 was opened in the afternoon then closed again further from the plant.

A “pop offs” and “flare” occurred on Sunday, Sept. 3 near 4:00 p.m. Most of US 90 was closed to FM 2100 by law enforcement. A department of public safety officer was asked by this reporter if there were air quality issues reported, “Not to my knowledge,“ he responded.