Arkema planned for hurricane but unprepared for Harvey catastrophe, feds say

By Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor, Jake Reiner - Reporter

CROSBY, Texas - Federal investigators said Thursday that while there was a plan in place at the Arkema plant in Crosby during Hurricane Harvey, company officials did not prepare for the catastrophic nature of the flooding that happened.

Officials at the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board showcased an animation that shows what investigators believe transpired as floodwaters overtook the plant.

Investigators have previously said the plant lost power as the water rose. Without power, workers were unable to keep some chemicals at the plant at the appropriate temperature. This resulted in explosions and fires that began Aug. 31 and lasted four days.

Residents near the plant were ordered to evacuate.

Federal investigators echoed those findings during Thursday's presentation.

DOCUMENT: Read the full CSB report about Arkema

According to the report, Arkema has since ordered studies at the plant to better understand elevations and water conditions during future hurricanes.

"In response to the incident, Arkema commissioned a site elevation survey for its Crosby facility to understand the elevation for all relevant points at the facility as well as a hydrological study to understand the likely flooding conditions during extreme weather events, such as hurricanes," investigators said in their written report. "Arkema will be able to use this data to evaluate the risks for a number of floodwater severity levels to help prevent future loss of refrigeration leading to organic peroxide product decomposition."

Janet Smith, a spokeswoman for Arkema, said the report showed the unprecedented nature of the situation the company faced during the storm.

"After an eight-month investigation, the Chemical Safety Board's written report accurately depicts the unforeseeable nature of the situation that Arkema faced during Hurricane Harvey," Smith said.

Smith said the report also showed that the company had a plan in place ahead of the storm and that workers followed all safety guidelines issued by regulators.

"Our employees went to extraordinary lengths under incredibly difficult conditions to maintain safety at our site during what was called the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in continental U.S. history," Smith said.

Several lawsuits have been filed by both people near the plant and county governments.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said Thursday that a grand jury will decide whether Arkema or any employees should be charged with a crime.

VIDEO: News conference about final report

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