Explosions, Smoke Reported at Chemical Plant near Houston

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Crosby, Texas (KRIV) — At least one police officer was hospitalized after inhaling fumes following two explosions that rocked a flooded chemical plant outside of Houston on Thursday morning, officials said.

The Harris County Emergency Operations Center has reported two explosions and black smoke coming from the Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas.

At least one Harris County deputy had been taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the plant.

Nine deputies were able to drive themselves to the hospital as a precaution.

Arkema officials later told the Harris County Sheriff’s Office that the smoke inhaled by the 10 deputies is believed to be a non-toxic irritant.

An Arkema spokesperson tells FOX 26 that this substance release is not chemical, but it can cause irritation to the eyes, throat, nose and skin.

Local officials held a press conference and were careful not to call the incidents ‘explosions’ so as to not alarm residents.

They were described as ‘pops.’

Arkema says at least two of the eight containers of organic peroxide have exploded, and all eight will at some point.

Local officials had previously established an evacuation zone in an area 1.5 miles from our plant, based on their assessment of the situation.

Arkema says it is working closely with federal, state and local authorities to manage the situation.

However, an unprecedented 6-feet of floodwater overwhelmed the primary power and two sources of emergency backup power.  As a result, they lost critical refrigeration of the products on site. Some of the organic peroxides products burn if not stored at low temperature.

Organic peroxides are extremely flammable and, Arkema and public officials agree, the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out.

Do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.

Organic peroxides are a family of compounds that are used in a wide range of applications, such as making pharmaceuticals and construction materials.

Toxicologist Dr. Noreen Khan Mayberry says the Arkema plan is at “imminent risk due to the fact that they have (non-diluted) unstable organic peroxides that have been warming.”

Dr. Khan Mayberry claims the deflagration of the organic peroxides at the plant is the main concern because as the pressure increases, the combustion and reaction zones increase creating a faster detonation.

She warns residents to stay away from Crosby because, she says, there is a very serious risk.

Read the full story on KRIV’s website here

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