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By Peter Hayes
Arkema Inc. was hit with negligence claims by first responders exposed to toxic fumes from chemical explosions at the company’s Crosby, Texas, facility abandoned during Hurricane Harvey ( Graves v. Arkema Inc. , Tex. Dist. Ct., docket number unavailable, filed 9/7/17 ).
The complaint alleges that the chemical manufacturer directed its employees to abandon the facility without properly storing or setting up backup refrigeration for chemicals and failing to provide information to the public and first responders about their risk of exploding.
Harvey barreled into Texas as a Category 4 storm on Aug. 25 and proceeded over the next few days to dump up to 50 inches of rain on southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. Metropolitan Houston was hard hit.
According to the complaint, filed on behalf of seven first responders, Arkema abandoned the facility on Aug. 29, leaving toxic chemicals unsupervised and unrefrigerated. On Aug. 31, the first of several explosions occurred at the site.
The explosions and subsequent releases of toxic fumes sickened first responders manning an evacuation perimeter around the plant, the complaint alleges.
“The police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road,” the complaint said.
“Medical personnel, in their attempts to provide assistance to the officers, became overwhelmed, and they too began to vomit and gasp for air,” the complaint said.
Arkema said in a statement that they had made efforts to contain the problem and that local officials established a 1.5 mile perimeter around the site.
"[O]ur 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,” the company said.
Spurlock and Associates P.C. represents the plaintiffs.
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