A chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, 25 miles northeast of Houston, reported “two explosions and black smoke” coming from the facility early Thursday morning, a result of six feet of Tropical Storm Harvey floodwaters that have rendered the plant powerless.
Arkema, the French chemicals group that runs the plant, said in a statement that the “threat of additional explosion” remains, telling residents to stay away from the 1.5-mile radius evacuation zone.
Richard Row, CEO of Arkema’s North America unit, previously announced that the facility, which produces organic peroxides, lost power to their coolant system and backup power generators, according to the Washington Post. He the said lack of refrigeration to the materials could cause explosions and subsequent fire.
“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,” Arkema’s statement from Thursday reads.
A Harris County Fire Marshal official said the explosions weren’t massive, but called them “pops” followed by fire. Fumes from the plant rendered one sheriff’s deputy in need of medical treatment, while at least 15 others were evaluated by medical teams as a precaution. Arkema says the smoke inhaled is thought to be a non-toxic irritant.
The company says that most likely more unrefrigerated peroxide will degrade and catch fire, which a small chance that the peroxide will release into flood waters and not ignite. However, the company has noted that the Crosby facility is in a rural area with no hospitals, schools, or industrial areas, and that police have sealed off access to the plant via Highway 90, which connects Houston to Beaumont, Texas.
“In the alternate, there could be a combination event involving fire and environmental release. Any fire will probably resemble a large gasoline fire. The fire will be explosive and intense. Smoke will be released into the atmosphere and dissipate,” the company’s incident news reports.
H/T the Washington Post
This article has been updated to reflect the correct day of the explosion at Arkema.