Energy & Environment

WATCH: Investigators Say Harvey Chemical Plant Fires Should Be Wake-Up Call For Industry

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board says there are “major lessons” to be learned from the incident

Burned-out trailers sit at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, after Harvey flooded the plant and caused organic peroxides stored in the trailers to catch fire.

 

Investigators say chemical plant fires during Hurricane Harvey should be a warning to other industrial facilities ahead of the next hurricane season.

Organic peroxides at the Arkema, Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas caught fire during the storm when the plant flooded and lost power. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a non-regulatory agency, said Wednesday that other chemical facilities should reconsider their own worst-case scenarios.

“Plan and plan again,” said the board’s chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. “Don’t be lulled into a false sense of safety by thinking it can’t or won’t happen here.”

MORE: Travis Bubenik Discusses Arkema Investigation on Houston Matters

Sutherland said there are “major lessons” to be learned from the Arkema fires, lessons the board hopes to share in a final report on the incident by June of 2018.

In the meantime, Sutherland said, if the frequency and intensity of storms continue to increase, the fires should be a wake-up call for other facilities.

“You do have to look at the storms we’ve had just over the last few years, and do your own hazard and risk assessments, again,” she said.

Mark Wingard, the CSB’s lead investigator for the Crosby incident, said a “big question” moving forward is whether or not the established wisdom about flood risks to Gulf Coast industrial facilities is good enough.

“We’re hoping to take this, and use this to try to figure out the best way for people to address these hazards and these risks prior to an event happening, prior to realizing that maybe the flood maps or the information you’re using isn’t sufficient for your hazard level,” Wingard said.

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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