Danger of more explosions continue for flooded chemical plant

CROSBY, Texas (KTRK) -- An explosion is still possible if not likely, at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, inundated with floodwaters, officials said.

There's still an area of 1.5 miles surrounding the plant under an evacuation order.

As residents who are out of their homes due to the evacuations wonder when and if an explosion will happen, questions linger about what is inside the plant and how an explosion would affect the area.

Arkema officials say the situation became dire when floodwaters cut power to the facility early in the week, leaving chemicals that require refrigeration in danger of becoming volatile.

The plant is under as much as six feet of water, plant officials say. Aerial images show areas that have little or no water in parts of the plant.

The flooding shouldn't be much of a surprise. Federal flood maps show the plant's location is in a "high-risk flood zone." Locals say there's never been this much water.

"I've lived here for a couple years, but my dad and paw-paw owned it before then and [the water never came] anywhere even close to this," Austin Blanscet, an evacuee said.

The company's own emergency plans for organic peroxides recognize that a loss of refrigeration power is a hazard and that once they get hot and decompose, will "burn vigorously."

The plan calls for backup generators, which failed. Another backup failed as well, company officials said.

The company's plan for handling organic peroxides calls for dry ice to be available. Company officials have not told us if it was.

The company admits more fires are likely, they just don't know when.

"We anticipate all this product is going to degrade," company president Richard Rennard said.

A federal investigation has already been launched into the incident, even as neighbors are kept miles away due to the danger.

"By all means, the plume is incredibly dangerous," said FEMA spokesperson Brock Long.

In the past, both federal and state regulators have fined the company for chemical handling violations, most recently in February of this year.

While the company says the chemicals are organic peroxides, there is no further information about them. Government documents don't list specifics.

Arkema was one of many chemical companies which lobbied the federal government to delay a federal regulation that aimed to prevent accidents and share more detailed information about the plant with the public.

At least 15 deputies were taken to the hospital Thursday morning after complaining of respiratory irritation after responding to the scene.

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