According to an investigation by the Houston Chronicle, Arkema's failure to fully account for the potential for storm damage led to serious chemical fires at its Crosby plant.
The central issue in the Arkema case is that the company was unprepared for more than three feet of flooding, according to the Chronicle article. Arkema's emergency management plan "barely addressed how to handle such a storm."
As a result, during nine days of chaos following Harvey's landfall, the company intentionally burned nine trailers containing chemicals they knew posed a danger to the public.
"Arkema failed to adequately prepare its employees to handle major flooding events," said Houston attorney Sean Tracey, who is involved in litigation related to the chemical fires. "The main power transformers, backup generators and fuel tanks for the refrigerated trailers were all too low to the ground and were submerged under flood waters. That left dangerous chemicals exposed and led to the company's decision to burn those chemicals despite knowing the risk to the public."
Arkema has argued that the unprecedented flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey was something they could not have possibly prepared for, a conclusion that Tracey disputed.
"They chose to build their chemical plant on a floodplain. They clearly understood the need for multiple failsafe systems, but none of those systems were located high enough off the ground," said Tracey. "In other flood-prone areas, we see generators put up on platforms several feet high to mitigate the risk of being flooded. Arkema didn't do that, and that put the entire community at risk."
Tracey added that Arkema's failure to warn the public about the hazardous chemicals compounded their negligence.
"They kept saying the fumes were not toxic. They downplayed the risk of other chemicals being affected by the fires, even though their own risk-management plan said there was a chance of a chain reaction that could affect over a million people in the Houston area. That's completely unacceptable."
Crosby homeowners have legal rights in the wake of this explosion
When a chemical site sits in flood waters for an extended period of time, the consequences for the surrounding area can be devastating. Anyone who lives within seven miles of the explosion site could be affected.
We strongly encourage anyone who might be seeing medical symptoms as a result of the chemical explosion - including rashes and respiratory issues - to seek medical help immediately. And we strongly encourage affected residents and home and property owners to contact our firm as soon as possible. If your life has been impacted by this explosion, you have a right to pursue fair compensation. We can help.