HOUSTON – Seven first responders who were hospitalized after the explosions last week at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby filed a lawsuit for at least $1 million on Thursday.
The lawsuit alleges that first responders who maintained part of an arbitrary 1.5-mile evacuation radius around the chemical facility were not informed by Arkema of the explosions early in the morning of Aug. 31. Those responders were injured from “a release of toxic chemicals,” the lawsuit says.
On Thursday, Kimberly Spurlock & Associates filed the lawsuit, which accuses one of the world’s largest chemical companies of gross negligence, in the Harris County Civil Courthouse.
As Hurricane Harvey dumped more than a trillion gallons of water across Southeast Texas, floods began to fill the Arkema plant in Crosby. Six feet of water caused the backup generators that kept chemicals at the plant cool to fail. The floodwater also forced an 11-person storm ride-out crew to evacuate the chemical facility on Aug. 29. They had to abandon nine containers filled with chemicals, despite knowing that the chemicals could explode.
Later, the company said it believed there were about half a million pounds of organic peroxides in the containers. Organic peroxides are stored at a cool temperature, around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. When those peroxides heat up, they break down, causing chemical reactions. Without the storm crew on site, the peroxides began to rise in temperatures.
Around 2 a.m. on Aug. 31, the chemicals heated to the point that the first explosion occurred, releasing smoke into the air.
“Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosion, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road,” the lawsuit states. “Calls for medics were made, but still no one from Arkema warned of the toxic fumes in the air.”
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced that 15 deputies went to the hospital after inhaling a “non-toxic irritant.”
The lawsuit states that the first responders were vomiting and unable to breathe. The plaintiffs are seeking damages based on that Arkema was negligent, among many things, of “failing to provide the public and first responders accurate information on the chemicals at risk of exploding.”
The suit also asked that the court grant a temporary restraining order to preserve any equipment, documents, manuals, photographs and video, communication, etc. by Arkema surrounding the Crosby plant.
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