CSB orders investigation into chemical plant fire in Crosby, TX

An investigation of the Arkema chemical plant emergency in Crosby, TX has been initiated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board but will not move forward until the emergency has been resolved, a CSB official said Thursday.
In a press release, CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said the agency had been closely monitoring events related to Hurricane Harvey.

"All of us at the CSB have been watching the events in the Gulf Coast region over the last several days and join in our prayerful hopes for the recovery and restoration of the region," Sutherland said. "We have two employees of the CSB who are based in the Houston area, and we are grateful that they and their families are safe."

Specifically, the CSB is initiating an investigation of the Arkema emergency. The plant, which manufactures organic peroxides, lost refrigeration to all its cold-storage warehouses after power went out and the backup generators were flooded.

Workers at the facility then transferred products from the warehouses into diesel-powered refrigerated containers. However, the refrigeration of some of those containers was also compromised due to the flooding, leading to the risk of a possible fire or explosion.

A fire broke out in the flooded plant Thursday morning with several loud reports or "pops" heard. Aerial photography later confirmed that one of the nine refrigerated containers had been consumed by flames.

"While we are initiating an investigation today, our investigators are not going to physically deploy to Crosby until the emergency response activities have been completed and the facility is deemed safe for entry," Sutherland said.

According to Sutherland, the CSB team’s initial activities will include significant document requests to Arkema, Inc. to gain an understanding of the following areas:
· The chemical process used at the Crosby site
· Specific chemicals stored, used and produced onsite; and
· Implications for emergency preparedness and response efforts.

"The full scope of our investigation will be determined as more information becomes available from the company," Sutherland said.

The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory Federal agency that investigates the root causes of major chemical incidents.

The agency's mission "is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment," Sutherland said.
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