Arkema SA has warned the public that it’s just a matter of time until its chemical plant in Crosby, Texas explodes due to the extreme flooding in and around the facility.
“We have an unprecedented 6 feet of water at the plant,” Arkema President and CEO Rich Rowe said in a statement about the situation Wednesday. “We have lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power.
“As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire. The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it,” he said.
The French chemicals manufacturer said that organic peroxides stored onsite would catch fire and explode if not properly cooled, and that is expected to happen within the next six days. He said there is no way to stop the chemicals from exploding because Arkema facilities have been inundated with six feet of water dropped by Hurricane Harvey.
The company did not disclose how much of a chemical release is expected at the Texas plant and it is not known what the environmental impact will be. Mr. Rowe did say that an “intense fire” and black smoke would erupt but that would not pose a “long-term harm or impact.”
The Arkema plant lost all refrigeration after flooding took out its emergency backup generators. Before the company evacuated the plant on Tuesday, workers transferred some of the chemicals from warehouses to diesel-powered refrigeration containers, which have been compromised by high water levels. The Arkema plant has been without power since Sunday.
Harris County officials ordered the evacuation of residents within a 1.5-mile radius of the Arkema plant and the Federal Aviation Administration has barred flights over the area near the plant until it is deemed safe.