CROSBY, Texas - A plant in Crosby is going to initiate 'controlled ignitions' of remaining chemical trailers to 'minimize the impacts to the community by the Arkema Inc. incident'.
Arkema released the following statement Sunday afternoon:
In a proactive approach, to minimize the impacts to the community by the Arkema Inc. incident, a decision was made by Arkema Inc. in coordination with unified command to take proactive measures to initiate ignition of the remaining trailers through controlled means. These measures do not pose any additional risk to the community. The 1.5 mile evacuation zone is still in place, until further notice.
Fifteen Harris County deputies were exposed to a 'non-toxic irritant' after a release of pressure from multiple small containers holding chemicals at the Arkema plant in Crosby last Tuesday. All were treated and released.
The incident was first reported by emergency officials as two explosions. Law enforcement later began referring to the situation as containers popping, spewing black smoke, and being on fire.
Assistant Fire Chief of Emergency Operations Bob Royall explained in a press briefing these were expected reactions that would lead to fires burning until the organic peroxide in the containers burned out.
Plant officials point to extremely high water and power loss from Harvey as the reason for another fire on Friday, which was burning organic compounds. The plant says they expect additional incidents.
There has been a 1 1/2-mile mandatory evacuation around the plant. That hasn't changed.
Richard Rennerd, President of Arkema's Acrylic Monomers division, addressed reporters Thursday morning and emphasized a chemical release is not occurring. He warned that inhaling the smoke emanating from the blaze could still pose health risks to the lungs and eyes, "like any fire."
Rennerd refused to outright say whether the chemicals are toxic.
The site contained nine containers of liquid organic peroxide that must remain cold. One of those containers started to degrade Thursday morning. Rennerd says he expects the remaining eight containers to degrade and burn as well.
The plant will allow the fire to burn until flooding recedes.
Rennerd says the plant took several measures, including multiple layers of protection to refrigerate the chemicals. Power was the key source to refrigeration, but the plant also brought in generators, which eventually failed. Liquid nitrogen and refrigerated storage containers were also used.
The nine remaining containers left to burn are at risk of catching fire in three different areas of the plant. Arkema estimates about 1/2 million pounds of liquid chemicals remain. A list of those chemicals can be seen here.