Frequently asked questions answered
Potential acute health effects
We are assuming exposure to smoke from a fire containing organic peroxides and/or degradation products of hydrocarbons and alcohols.
Exposure to organic peroxides may cause eye, skin and/or respiratory irritation. The smoke may also contain organic peroxide degradation products, including hydrocarbons and alcohols. These degradation products may also cause eye, skin and/or respiratory irritation or skin sensitization. In addition, they may cause nausea, drowsiness, or dizziness. Based upon our understanding of the current situation, we believe that these are the key health effects. In case of significant or long-term exposure, these effects may be intensified. For this reason, we continue to advise everyone to avoid the smoke and to seek medical attention if they believe they are exposed.
We are continuing to monitor and evaluate the situation and will update our information as appropriate.
In case of exposure, contact your physician or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Please provide your physician/hospital with the phone number for Rocky Mountain Poison Center: (866) 767-5089, and Rocky Mountain will provide medical advice.
Has anyone been injured as a result of the smoke/fire?
We understand that a number of people have been seen or treated at a local hospital. We are not aware of anyone being hospitalized, and we understand that some individuals have been released.
What is Arkema doing to support the hospitals?
We are working closely with local emergency responders and hospitals to provide information on the potential chemicals and degradation products in the smoke and fire. We also are providing medical support to local emergency responders and hospitals through our medical consultants (Rocky Poison Control Center). We are working closely with Rocky Mountain to provide needed information on the situation, health effects, and treatments.
Shelter in place for evacuation area
For residents in the 1.5-mile evacuation area, please turn off your air conditioner in order to avoid potential exposure to smoke from the facility and shelter in place. If you are outside the 1.5-mile evacuation area and smell smoke, please turn off your air conditioner in order to avoid potential exposure to smoke from the facility.
The Harris County Fire Marshall’s Office has stated that, as a precautionary measure, all residents within a 1.5-mile radius of the Crosby plant have been evacuated. Arkema does not make evacuation decisions, and for further information on evacuations, please contact the Harris County Fire Marshall’s Office.
Hurricane measures and plant status
The plant made extensive preparations prior to Hurricane Harvey. We have backup generators at the site solely for the purpose of being a redundant power supply for refrigeration necessary for the safe storage of products. We also brought in diesel-powered refrigerated tank trailers and additional fuel as a further redundancy. Employees safely shut down all operations on Friday, August 25, prior to the hurricane’s landfall. We left a small “ride-out” crew on-site to address situations that could arise at the site during the storm to protect the safety and security of the community. The site lost primary power early Sunday morning August 27. The additional backup generators subsequently were inundated by water and failed. On Monday, August 28 temperature-sensitive products were transferred into 8 diesel-powered refrigerated containers where they currently reside. We evacuated the ride-out crew on Tuesday, August 29 for their safety. As of August 30, most of the refrigeration units have failed due to flooding. The site itself is now completely flooded and inaccessible except by boat. In conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security and the State of Texas, Arkema has set up a command post in an off-site location near the plant.
Arkema and governmental authorities are monitoring this closely. It will take time for the low-temperature product to degrade, ignite, burn, and disperse. DHS reports indicate that the water around Crosby will crest in about 5 to 7 days. Unfortunately, until the water recedes, Arkema and governmental authorities have concluded that there are no further actions at the site that can be taken safely.
Potential fire or release
The most likely outcome is that, anytime between now and the next few days, the low-temperature peroxide in unrefrigerated trailers will degrade and catch fire.
There is a small possibility that the organic peroxide will release into the floodwaters but will not ignite and burn. In that situation, we would expect the materials to break down rapidly into hydrocarbons and alcohols. The floodwaters could carry the hydrocarbons and alcohols off-site. While it is possible that you may see an oil sheen or smell a slight odor, we anticipate the breakdown products would dissipate in the water or evaporate.
In the alternate, there could be a combination event involving fire and environmental release.
Any fire will probably resemble a large gasoline fire. The fire will be explosive and intense. Smoke will be released into the atmosphere and dissipate. People should remain clear of the area.
Potential effects on neighbors
The fires from the burning organic peroxides will emit thick black smoke. The smoke might be irritating to the eyes, skin, and lungs. There are other flammable raw materials on site that could also catch fire, and Arkema and governmental authorities are monitoring the plant. We will continue to provide health information as developments occur. If you feel that you have been affected by any smoke from this incident, please contact your doctor or otherwise seek medical attention.
With respect to potential impacts on nearby property, that depends upon what happens at the site, which we can’t predict right now. As we get more information, we will provide it.
The plant has a permitted underground injection well. The wastewater discharged by Arkema is not hazardous wastewater under Texas law. The plant is currently under over 5 feet of water, so we are unable to evaluate the condition of the underground injection well. As soon as we have access to the plant, we will be conducting a full assessment.