Explosions at a Houston-area Arkema, Inc. chemical plant have raised health and safety concerns about the potential toxicity being released into the air.
Arkema makes adhesives found in plastics, car parts, tile, wallpaper, clothing, eyeglasses and diapers. The company also claims to be the third-largest producer of hydrogen peroxide, ABC News reports.
The chemical plant, located in Crosby, Texas, lost power as well as backup generators after Hurricane Harvey dumped flooding waters into the Houston area. According to the plant’s operator, the power loss knocked out refrigeration necessary to stabilize organic peroxides. As the temperatures rose, the chemicals became volatile, resulting in explosions.
The blasts were followed by plumes of black smoke rising from the plant, which sent more than a dozen public safety officers to the hospital for treatment. Residents within a 1.5-mile radius were evacuated, and are now raising health and safety concerns regarding the potential toxicity being released into the air.
According to records, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Arkema nearly $110,000 for serious safety violations last February following an inspection of the facility. Out of the 10 violations cited, six of them were considered a level 10 -occupational hazards that could cause an accident or illness that would “most likely result in death or serious physical harm.” Later, OSHA reduced the fines to just over $90,000.
Investors in the company were warned in last year’s annual securities filings that the facility was at risk for “accidents, fires, explosions and pollution” due to the nature of the chemicals it utilizes. They were also warned that any accidents had the potential to result in compensation claims, lawsuits and delays in production.
“This is a significant player,” said Mark Eramo, a vice president of IHS Markit, a financial services company. “A responsible operator that has unfortunately faced an unprecedented situation.”