Houston Public Media

First Responders Suing Arkema — How Strong Is Their Case?

Fire at the Arkema chemical company in Crosby, Texas September 1, 2017.

A group of first responders have filed a lawsuit in Harris County against Arkema, Inc. They alleged that chemicals released from the fire at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas northeast of Houston caused them to fall ill.

We talk with Misty Hataway-Cone with Spurlock and Associates about the first responders’ case. Then, we learn about the legal merits of their case from Victor Flatt. He’s an environmental law professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

Arkema, Inc. provided the following statement:

We deeply regret that anyone suffered harm as a result of the havoc wreaked on our plant by Hurricane Harvey, particularly first responders who worked with us side-by-side to keep the public safe.

Our employees acted in the same honorable and heroic way that thousands of other citizens in Harris County did when confronted with an unprecedented tragedy. They did everything they could to protect the public, while fighting fast-rising flood waters that were 5 to 7 feet high at our plant. We totally cooperated with all first responders and the numerous regulatory agencies working with us to keep the public safe.

We reject any suggestion that we failed to warn of the danger of breathing the smoke from the fires at our site, or that we ever misled anyone. To the contrary, we pleaded with the public, for their own safety, to respect the 1.5 mile evacuation zone imposed by the unified command well prior to any fire. We will vigorously defend a lawsuit that we believe is gravely mistaken.