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Houston Matters

What the Arkema Criminal Case Could Mean for Other Companies Preparing for Storms

NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher tells Houston Matters what she’s learned about what happened before and during the flooding at Arkema.

Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune
The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, where a pressure release after a power failure during Hurricane Harvey caused an evacuation.

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Earlier this month, a Harris County grand jury indicted chemical manufacturer Arkema for the release of toxic chemicals after its plant flooded during Harvey. Harris County prosecutors allege Arkema "recklessly" released those toxic chemicals into the air as fires burned within the facility, allegedly making Crosby residents and first-responders sick.

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 those toxic chemicals.

The indictment names the company itself, its CEO, and a plant manager. If convicted, the two men could face up to five years in prison, and the company may see fines of up to a million dollars.

NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher was recently in Houston to work on a story about this case. She tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty what she's learned about what happened before and during the flooding at Arkema.

She also discusses what she saw when compiling a story about the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site.

  • File photo of September 8, 2017 shows a fire at the Arkema chemical company in Crosby, Texas.  (Photo Credit: KHOU.com)
    File photo of September 8, 2017 shows a fire at the Arkema chemical company in Crosby, Texas. (Photo Credit: KHOU.com)
  • The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, where a pressure release after a power failure during Hurricane Harvey caused an evacuation.   (Photo Credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune)
    The Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, where a pressure release after a power failure during Hurricane Harvey caused an evacuation. (Photo Credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune)
  • 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.
 (Photo Credit: CREDIT U.S. CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD)
    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. (Photo Credit: CREDIT U.S. CHEMICAL SAFETY BOARD)
  • Debris resulting from a series of chemical fires at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chemical Safety Board)
    Debris resulting from a series of chemical fires at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chemical Safety Board)
  • Philip Mincey lives around the corner from the Arkema plant. He had to evacuate his flooded house after chemicals at the plant caught fire. (Photo Credit: Travis Bubenik)
    Philip Mincey lives around the corner from the Arkema plant. He had to evacuate his flooded house after chemicals at the plant caught fire. (Photo Credit: Travis Bubenik)
  • Shane Doby, a Crosby resident suing the Arkema chemical plant.   (Photo Credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune)
    Shane Doby, a Crosby resident suing the Arkema chemical plant. (Photo Credit: Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune)

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