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Harris County Sues KMCO Over Fire At Crosby Facility

The lawsuit alleges KMCO violated the Texas Clean Air Act, as well as the state’s Solid Waste Disposal Act and Water Code.

This photo taken by the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office shows the KMCO Chemical plant Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Crosby, Texas.

Harris County is suing KMCO over the explosion and fire that occurred at their Crosby facility on April 2. The county is arguing the petrochemical company violated both state laws and county regulations.

The fire occurred at the facility located at 16503 Ramsey Road and caused one fatality and injuries to several workers. Several workers have also sued. Regarding those lawsuits, KMCO said in a statement to media outlets that until the facts are known, any legal complaints against the company should be considered unverified. 

County Attorney Vince Ryan filed the lawsuit last Wednesday, April 3, at the 269th Civil Court. On Tuesday, the Harris County Commissioners Court ratified the litigation and authorized funding for the legal case.

The lawsuit alleges KMCO violated the Texas Clean Air Act, as well as the state’s Solid Waste Disposal Act and Water Code. In addition, the county argues the company may be in violation of Harris County’s floodplain and storm water regulations.

The county is seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties.

The lawsuit also references another incident that happened on February 6 of this year when Harris County investigators concluded that the KMCO facility had emitted a persistent “sour gas-like odor,” violating the Texas Clean Air Act.

As for the April 2 fire, the lawsuit alleges that a line connected to KMCO’s isobutylene tank began to leak and the tank subsequently exploded.

The lawsuit notes that the explosion “shook nearby buildings and the fire created an opaque, black smoke column that was visible for several hours.” Residents within a one-mile radius of the facility and several school districts were asked to shelter in place.

The lawsuit argues the fire resulted in the emission of air contaminants, which would be a violation of the Texas Clean Air Act. In addition, according to the lawsuit, KMCO discharged firefighting foam and “facility-industrial wastewater” into or adjacent to waterways, which would be a violation of the Texas Water Code and the county’s storm water regulations.

Harris County is also investigating whether KMCO has all the permits required under the county’s floodplain regulations.

The lawsuit also contends that the fire “has created a potentially hazardous condition at the KMCO Facility with ongoing risk of fire hazards.”

Among other things, the county is asking that KMCO is ordered to cease all operations until a Fire and Life Safety Inspection is completed and that the company is forbidden to both dispose of any waste materials and discharge any waste or liquid from any container onto the ground or into any waterways.

The State of Texas has also initiated litigation against KMCO through a petition filed last week by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

You can read Harris County’s lawsuit here:

 

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Digital News Producer

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz is originally from Madrid (Spain). He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master’s degree...

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