A fire at a Houston chemical plant yesterday morning killed one person, left two with critical injuries and caused residents living within a mile of the facility to shelter in place. It is unclear whether the victims were employees at the plant.
News sources say the incident at KMCO plant began when a tank of isobutylene ignited, and the fire spread to an adjacent storage building. The fire reportedly began at 11 a.m. It was largely contained by 4 p.m., according to an announcement by Harris County's emergency management office.
The shelter in place order announced by the Harris County Fire Marshals Office directed residents to stay inside, close windows and doors and turn off air-conditioning unit. There was a temporary “no-fly” zone established for a mile above the plant. Children in the Sheldon Independent School District were not permitted to leave their schools until the shelter in place order was lifted at 3 p.m.
The KMCO has a history of violations of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which regulates the management of hazardous materials and non-hazardous solid waste. An EPA report details RCRA violations from 2000-2017.
The company settled a lawsuit in 2009 brought against it by Harris County, for discharging wastewater that exceeded limits on pollutants like ammonia, copper and zinc.
The county filed another lawsuit against KMCO in 2017, for violating Texas’ clean water and air regulations. That case is still pending.