Arkema CEO, plant manager make first court appearance after indictments for Harvey response

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Arkema North America's CEO and Crosby plant manager made an initial court appearance Monday on the criminal charges against them for the release of chemicals and subsequent fire after Hurricane Harvey.

CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle face felonies for 'reckless release of chemicals' associated with the fire. The company also faces a criminal charge.

READ: Harris County files lawsuit against Arkema

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More neighbors of the Arkema plant in Crosby sued the chemical company Tuesday in federal court.

Attorney Rusty Hardin, defending the three, said that instead of defendants, they are heroes, riding out the storm in six feet of water.

District Attorney Kim Ogg on Friday said the company placed profit over safety in not having a plan in place to safely secure chemicals that had to be refrigerated in order not to combust.

Comardelle's attorney said that was simply a lie.

Hardin said the company had three backups for the chemicals, all failed, and that was the result of Harvey's significant flooding, not lack of preparation.

But the plant's ride-out crew on Saturday reported they expected "significant flooding" across the site at the same time meteorologists and officials were predicting 25 to 40 inches of rain.

Arkema sits in the floodplain and has experienced flooding before. Officials say it's never been this bad.

The chemical release and fires shut down a mile and half around the plant for days. Two hundred people had to be evacuated.

At least 21 first responders and other officials were injured when they breathed in some of the fumes while arriving at the plant. Many of those first responders are now filing civil lawsuits in federal court.

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An EPA plane flies through the plume of smoke over Arkema. (EPA)

A Chemical Safety Board report outlined some of the harrowing steps plant crews took during Harvey. At one point, they hauled some of the dangerous chemicals by hand from one location to another in waist-deep water.

SEE ALSO: Grand jury criminally indicts Arkema officials for Harvey actions

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This was memorable for the wrong reasons. The video gives a look at the Arkema plant fire in Crosby, Texas, as it first flared up back in August 2017.

If convicted, the company faces a $1 million fine. The two Arkema officials accused in the case would face five years in jail.

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