CROSBY, Texas (KTRK) —Two explosions have been reported at a flooded Crosby chemical plant that officials said was at risk of exploding, according to the company that operates it.
Arkema said early Thursday that black smoke was also visible following the two explosions, which occurred around 2 a.m.
Officials on Wednesday evacuated workers and residents within a 1.5-mile radius from the plant after flooding which the company says could lead to a massive fire or explosion.
Arkema officials say they can do nothing to stop the impending chemical reaction. They describe the situation as “serious”.
The plant has been shut down since Friday when site leaders in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall. The location received more than 40 inches of rainfall, leaving the site heavily flooded and without electricity since early Sunday morning.
Backup generators were inundated with water. A small ride-out crew of 11 people remained on site for the last few days, but by Tuesday afternoon, the decision to evacuate all personnel was made.
The company says refrigeration on some of the backup product storage containers has been compromised due to the extremely high water, which is unprecedented in the Crosby area.
Authorities are monitoring the temperature of each refrigeration container remotely.
Arkema Inc. issued the following statement to ABC13:
“The situation at our plant continues to be extremely serious, and public officials continue to reinforce the perimeter around our plant. We urge local residents to stay out of the area until public officials communicated that it is safe.”
Arkema manufactures organic peroxides at their Crosby plant. The product needs to be stored under controlled temperatures. The company has refused to specify what chemicals are involved and refused to respond to repeated requests for more information about the chemicals.
Folks who live nearby or have loved ones in the area are frustrated and nervous.
“It’s a bad situation for everybody. I just hope the best. I hope to God it doesn’t blow up. It could be really bad. A lot of people live around here. A lot of good people,” said Joe Hernandez. “When you deal with this kind of situations: You’re in management, you’re supposed to have a plan for the plan…I’m pretty sure when it’s all said and done….they’re gonna have to do some kind of re-staffing, I would imagine. I hope to God nothing happens but if it does, it’s a good thing everybody’s out of here.”
The company wouldn’t or couldn’t say specifically which chemicals are at the center of this incident. Some digging into records the company is required to file by law revealed a list of 19 chemicals they use or have used.
At least one of the chemicals has to be kept at a maximum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit or it can combust.
Arkema has called a 9 a.m. press conference on Thursday where we hope to learn more about the dangers facing those who are near the plant and what authorities are doing to attempt to reduce that risk.