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OSHA: 3 willful violations led to plant blasts in Port Neches

Thick smoke fills the sky above the TPC Group Port Neches Operations as emergency response crews try to contain the fire that continued to burn throughout the morning following an overnight explosion on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas.  Three workers were injured early Wednesday in a massive explosion at the Texas chemical plant that also blew out the windows and doors of nearby homes. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)
Thick smoke fills the sky above the TPC Group Port Neches Operations as emergency response crews try to contain the fire that continued to burn throughout the morning following an overnight explosion on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Port Neches, Texas. Three workers were injured early Wednesday in a massive explosion at the Texas chemical plant that also blew out the windows and doors of nearby homes. (Kim Brent/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)

HOUSTON – U.S. officials cited the owners of a Southeast Texas chemical plant where November blasts and fires injured three workers and caused widespread damage to the surrounding community.

The Nov. 27 blasts at the TPC Group plant in Port Neches, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) east of Houston, prompted officials to order the surrounding communities to be evacuated of about 50,000 residents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a statement Tuesday that it cited TPC for three willful violations by not developing and implementing procedures for emergency shutdown and not inspecting and testing process vessel and piping components. TPC faces $514,692 in civil OSHA fines.

TPC has 15 business days from receipt of the citation and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. A message with a TPC spokesman Wednesday was not immediately returned.

An investigation found that vapor formed at the base of a butadiene finishing tower and ignited, causing the explosions and fires.