ABC13 learned late Friday Arkema is now facing a criminal probe into their actions before, during and after a series of chemical fires at their plant in Crosby during Hurricane Harvey.
Late Friday afternoon, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg confirmed to ABC13 Investigates she is conducting a criminal investigation into the events at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby. It is far too early to know the target or potential charges. In a statement late Friday afternoon, Ogg told ABC13, "Companies should be on notice that we care when they pollute our air, our water, our environment. We are looking into exactly what happened at the plant. We are gathering facts and we will apply the law. Arkema is under criminal investigation."
It is the latest investigation facing the company, but could be among the most serious. A host of regulatory agencies in Texas and federally are investigating the fires. One civil lawsuit has already been filed by neighbors and first responders. Another could be filed soon. Additionally, Harris County announced it may sue civilly.
A company spokesman told ABC13 Investigates the company has hired Houston attorney Rusty Hardin to represent it on all civil cases. Hardin will defend the company in a criminal case if one arises.
The fires at Arkema facility broke out days after the facility was flooded and lost power. The company manufactures Organic Peroxides there. Without power to keep them cold, the chemicals ignite on their own. Two back-up systems failed to keep the chemicals chilled. Two fires started on their own in early September. The third was lit by first responders working with the company to speed the process up. Neighbors within a mile and a half of the plant were evacuated for days as the crisis unfolded.
The confirmation of a criminal probe comes as ABC13 Investigates was pushing for the release of videos from the fire under the Texas Public Information Act. Harris County sought to withhold the videos pending a previously unannounced criminal investigation. When asked, the DA confirmed her team is conducting it.
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