First responders sue chem company over Harvey injuries
A group of first responders in Texas has filed a million dollar lawsuit against a chemical company, alleging that that they were injured by dangerous chemicals because the company failed to adequately prepare for Hurricane Harvey.
According to news reports, the lawsuit was filed in Harris County by seven police, fire and emergency medical technicians against the French company Arkema. It alleges that Arkema "repeatedly denied that the chemicals were toxic or harmful in any manner" and that first responders "relied on these representations and suffered serious bodily injuries as a result.”
Explosions and fire
Power systems at the facility in Crosby – about 25 miles north of Houston - were knocked out by flooding, causing the flammable organic peroxides stored at the site to heat up, explode and burn.
The company said in a statement that it had followed its hurricane preparation plan and 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.”
Organic peroxides are a family of compounds that are used in a wide range of applications, such as making pharmaceuticals and construction materials.
Residents within a mile and a half radius of the plant were evacuated, and emergency workers were tasked with maintaining the evacuation perimeter. Workers at the plant had been evacuated prior to the flooding.
At least 15 emergency workers were taken to a local hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
The company is denying the allegations in the suit. "We deeply regret that anyone suffered harm as a result of the havoc wreaked on our plant by Hurricane Harvey,” it said in a statement.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has launched an investigation of the incident, and the Environmental Protection Agency has been monitoring the site for pollutants.