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Arkema Indicted for Chemical Releases during Harvey

Harris County prosecutors allege Arkema “recklessly” released toxic chemicals into the air

A Harris County grand jury has indicted chemical manufacturer Arkema for the release of toxic chemicals after its plant flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

Harris County prosecutors allege Arkema “recklessly” released toxic chemicals into the air as fires burned within the facility, allegedly making Crosby residents and first responders sick. 

The indictment names the company itself, Arkema CEO Richard Rowe, and plant manager Leslie Comardelle. If convicted, Rowe and Comardelle could face up to five years in prison, and the company may see fines of up to $1 million.
Homes in view of the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas.

The French-based manufacturer has seen numerous lawsuits and complaints about its handling of flooding during the storm. 

The facility took on six feet of floodwater during the storm, resulting in the failure of the plant’s power generators and causing explosions of toxic chemicals.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for Arkema called the indictment “astonishing,” saying the company would fight the charges.

Additionally, a statement from Arkema attorney Rusty Hardin claimed the indictment “has no legal precedent in Texas courts,” and said the company should not be held liable for flooding that “no one, including Harris County itself, was prepared for.”

In a separate statement, Tim Johnson and Nick Dickerson, the lawyers who represent Rowe, argued that the Texas Water Code specifically recognizes and provides an exception for events caused by Acts of God.

The lawyers noted that Texas law defines an Act of God as “an unanticipated and unprecedented event that could not have been avoided by the exercise of reasonable care or planning.”

“If the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey doesn’t qualify as an Act of God, nothing does,” Johnson and Dickerson added in the statement.

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Davis Land

Senior Producer

Davis Land is a senior producer at Houston Public Media. He cut his teeth at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, MA and at WBUR in Boston. His work has appeared on various public radio programs and podcasts including Texas Standard, Here and Now, and Marketplace. Davis is a graduate...

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