Emergency workers allege health risks from hurricane-hit Texas plant / USD 1m lawsuit
An explosion and fire at the organic peroxides plant operated at Crosby, Texas, by the Pennsylvania-based US subsidiary of French chemicals and plastics producer Arkema (Colombes / France; could have repercussions beyond repairing the damage – see of 31.08.2017. Seven emergency workers and police officers have filed a USD 1m lawsuit against the company on grounds that its alleged failure to properly secure the volatile chemicals stored on-site ahead of Hurricane "Harvey" may have indirectly endangered their health.

The US Chemical Safety Board meanwhile is reviewing the incident, which occurred on 31 August, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; has given Arkema’s local management 10 days to answer questions about the handling of the combustible chemicals used to manufacture polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC and polyester-reinforced fibreglass, along with acrylic resins.

Richard Rowe, the US offshoot’s CEO, and other executives are named in the lawsuit, which charges that the thick black smoke emerging from the flooded facility after a controlled burn of storage trailers containing the chemicals, sickened them and may have caused “potential unknown future health issues.” They accuse management of downplaying the danger by referring to the fumes as noxious, without revealing whether they were toxic.

Arkema has called the legal challenge “gravely mistaken” and rejected suggestions that it failed to warn of the danger of breathing the smoke or had misrepresented the substances’ properties. The chemical group explained that moving the chemicals as the storm approached was deemed too risky. The EPA has meanwhile reported that surface water runoff samples collected on 1 September 2017, the day after the burn, turned up no volatile or semi-volatile organic chemicals.

The incident at the Crosby plant has once again thrown up questions about enforcement of plant safety in the US, in particular the EPA’s plans to delay a risk management plan that would have required companies to disclose chemicals stored at production facilities. Administrator Scott Pruitt said the plans should be re-thought, as such a list could aid terrorists. Additionally, due to a gap in federal environmental laws, reports noted that producers are not required to address risks posed by volatile chemicals not classified as toxic.
13.09.2017 [237893-0]
Published on 13.09.2017

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