HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - A group of people in Crosby are so frustrated with a local plant, they held up signs in protest on Sunday. They stood outside the Arkema Chemical Plant, nearly six weeks after a series of explosions forced evacuations in the area.
“I’m wearing the mask because I don’t know what’s in the air. I don’t know the aftermath. I don’t know what’s in my grass. I don’t know what’s in my water,” said Linda Johnson. She’s lived about a mile from the Arkema facility for about four years.
About six weeks ago, Johnson and her neighbors were forced to evacuate for several days. Everyone living within a 1.5 mile radius of the facility has since been able to return home.
The plant’s organic peroxides ignited after back-up generators were flooded and failed during Hurricane Harvey.
The explosions led to a series of investigations, and as of October 3rd, two lawsuits have been filed on behalf of residents and first responders.
One of the suits is filed in district court, the other was filed in federal court.
“Well, first of all, major mold. We were gone for eight days,” said Johnson. “We all live on septic systems. We all have well water. All of our well systems, all of our septic systems were left unattended. Many of us in this neighborhood, do not have the finances or the means to fix our homes so we can go back to living in our homes.”
This is the statement Arkema provided to KHOU 11 News in regards to complaints from its neighbors:
Arkema cares about our neighbors in Crosby and we have taken a number of steps to help them return to normal life following Hurricane Harvey. Our Assistance Center served hundreds of families, arranging hotel rooms and rental cars, and giving them more than $100,000 in cash and gift cards for immediate needs such as food, clothing, medicine or pet care.
We also set up a Claims Center for residents to seek reimbursement for non-flood damages, and have taken in hundreds of claims. While the overwhelming damage caused by floodwater was already occurring prior to the fires at our plant, we recognize that the evacuation kept people away from their homes for some days.
In a limited number of cases, we have already paid claims, though typically the process takes longer. Many claims require a property inspection, and while that takes time, we have completed inspections in the majority of cases where one is needed. Also, to ensure we can settle claims fairly, we have asked residents to submit supporting documentation such as receipts for expenses, and estimates or invoices from service providers.
To date, more than 70 percent of homeowners who have filed claims have had an initial visit to start the processing of their claims. However, fewer than one percent have submitted estimates of the cost of repair. We expect to be able to pay many more claims as we receive this documentation, and residents can expedite resolution of their claim by submitting this paperwork.
Again, we care about our neighbors in Crosby and we want to process their claims as quickly as possible. We also have worked to help our neighbors in other ways, such as through our Assistance Center, by setting up an Emergency Hotline to answer questions around the clock, and by donating $500,000 to charities that are helping residents of Southeast Texas to recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Harvey."
Johnson described the claims process as difficult, “You get turned to another person, to another person, to another person.”
Her message to the chemical company is this: “If you want to help us, you have my phone number, you have my address, you have my email. Why don’t you pick up a phone? Where are you Arkema?”