Arkema was not prepared for Harvey rainfall: Report

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The Harris County DA will present evidence to a grand jury "in the coming weeks" to see if criminal charges are warranted in the Arkema plant fire and explosion

"This is about the health and safety of Harris County residents."

New photos, released to ABC13 by the Environmental Protection Agency show the huge fireball after the Houston Police Department bomb squad lit the trailers on fire using C4.

Recommendations on how the Arkema plant explosion happened right after Hurricane Harvey include better preparation for extreme weather and flooding on the Crosby property.

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.

Fires and explosions began on August 31, 2017 right after the plant flooded during Harvey. More than 200 people were evacuated from their homes for a week. Through the entire incident, 21 people were injured.

Arkema was criticized by homeowners and county officials for not having done enough to anticipate the flooding on the site that happened. The site sits in a floodplain.

The county has now filed a lawsuit against Arkema. First responders and other homeowners also have filed suit, claiming the plant wasn't prepared and now their homes and groundwater are contaminated.

One of the key recommendations for the plant is to come up with ways to combat events like Harvey and other extreme weather events.

"The Arkema facility was not prepared for such heavy rainfall and flooding," said one board member of the Chemical Safety Board, the agency presenting the report.

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

Had they planned better, including some recommendations made today, the plant may not have experienced the loss of refrigeration and ultimate explosions, the board said.

Can the Crosby facility be made safe?
"You need to understand your risk," Mark Winger, the chief investigator said. Arkema didn't examine the full risk of Harvey-like risks, he said.

"You really need to understand what your worst-case scenario is," Winger said. "Relying on the last 40 or 50 years of experience" is not good enough with extreme weather.

While employees on site did everything they could think of to stop an eventual reaction, the plans in place did not address flooding above just a few feet. When the power went out and generators were flooded, employees on site had little choice but to move the chemicals to where they thought they might be safe, the CSB said.

But better planning could've allowed for the possibility of moving the chemicals off-site, in a safer location on higher ground or provided some kind of backup system to continue refrigeration going despite the loss of power.

After the report was released, a spokesperson said they appreciated the recommendations, but pointed to the report's commendation of the employees and said that the rainfall was unprecedented.

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