Evacuation lifted for residents near Arkema chemical plant in Crosby
CROSBY, Texas – The smoke has cleared at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby and the mandatory evacuation for nearby residents has been lifted.
On Monday morning, Arkema leaders apologized and said they would offer financial assistance to families affected in Crosby.
Some residents were upset, saying they've been out of their homes for so long, it's stalled their recovery.
"We were stuck in nowhere. We couldn't do this, couldn't do that and we found no help yet," Don Franklin said.
After being ordered out for a week, residents were allowed back in their homes Monday morning. The Crosby Fire Department said it was safe.
A family of 12 that had 5 feet of water inside its home was among those originally told to stay away.
"It was really uneasy not to be able to get in there because we knew everything that we owned, everything that we treasured was being lost and that we weren't gonna have anything by the time we got back," Kay Helms said.
Because the problems at the Arkema plant delayed their recovery.
"Now there's mold all throughout the house and it smells and it stinks and it's slimy to go through there," Helms said.
Flooding damaged the refrigeration system that keeps chemicals cool and stable at the plant on Crosby Eastgate Road near Highway 90.
One by one, tankers filled with organic peroxide exploded and caught fire, according to Arkema.
"All of a sudden, 'boom,' and I jumped a little bit and then there was another boom and then there was about five or six small ones," Ray Irby Hoot said.
Despite the mandatory evacuation in a 1.5-mile radius, Hoot stayed home.
"It was all going straight up. That's what they said. That was a good thing. It was all going straight up," he said.
Arkema leaders said families don't have to take any precautions.
"There was no organic peroxide that moved off the site as a result of the flood, so we don't anticipate there's going to be any implication to people's water supply," Rich Rowe, President and CEO of Arkema, said.
The Environmental Protection Agency was monitoring the quality of the air and water in the area.
Officials said if people find debris or ash on their property, they should call the hotline at 1-877-4-ARKEMA.
Officials said there is no word on when the plant will reopen.
The Harris County fire marshal was investigating is investigating the cause of the fire.
The six remaining trailers have burned, which means all nine containers have burned off the chemicals.
The controlled burn got rid of the remaining chemicals that caused several explosions in the past week.
The plant flooded during Harvey, which damaged the refrigeration system that keeps the chemicals cool and stable.
The EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued the following statement Monday:
"The Crosby Fire Department and unified command has determined it is safe for residents to return to their homes. The 1.5 mile evacuation zone around the Arkema Inc. facility has been lifted and is no longer in effect. Arkema thanks the unified command for their hard work and professionalism to ensure the safety of all during the post-Hurricane Harvey period.
"The perimeter of the Arkema Crosby site is secured. Arkema will continue to work with its neighbors and the community to recover from the substantial impact of Hurricane Harvey. For further information on these efforts, please contact the incident helpline at 1-877-4ARKEMA."
For more information call Arkema's hotline at 877-4-ARKEMA or visit arkema.com.
Multiple fires broke out at plant
There were plumes of black smoke and flames shooting into the air on Friday in the 18000 block of Crosby Eastgate Road.
The explosions came from chemicals and were expected, according to the company responsible for the chemicals.
"One container became engaged. Then the heat from that container is what actually initiated and ultimately fire from the second container," Richard Rennard, with Arkema, said. "This played out like we'd expected it to."
Two trailers, which housed what Arkema Inc. said are organic peroxides, burned.
One trailer burned Thursday.
After Friday's fires, six more trailers remain that are likely to catch fire.
"The product is going to warm up. It's going to begin to downgrade and then it's going to catch fire, just like it did today (Friday)," Rennard said. "The storm came in very quickly. Water rose very quickly. We didn't feel like we were going to be in a situation where all of our redundant levels of protection were going to be compromised."
The trailers catch fire because they can't handle being stored in hot conditions.
Arkema said the chemicals were stored in a warehouse facility, which was temperature appropriate.
Once Harvey knocked out power, backup generators were brought in.
Then the facility flooded, killing the generators.
The chemicals were then stored in trailer trucks, which don't have refrigeration.
An employee from a company called Dexter Field Services, out of Beaumont, was at the perimeter set up around the plant Friday.
The company tests air quality, among other things, according to its website.
Officials also said the EPA is testing the air and water.
Arkema said the burning that's occurring is not toxic.
It also said this was a worst-case scenario they didn't see coming.
While the fire is burning, residents near the facility might be exposed to smoke and other combustion irritants.
Harris County officials said residents should stay indoors, close all windows and shut off air conditioning.
Copyright 2017 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.