Houston and the chemicals

The oil and gas business may kill more Houstonians than Harvey has so far if any of the chemical plants blow up, as at least one is threatening to do.

Crosby fire officials are bracing for an explosion at the Arkema chemical plant in the city where floodwaters have knocked out power and generators needed to keep volatile chemicals stored at the facility cool.

All employees of the plant at 18000 Crosby Eastgate Road were evacuated late Tuesday, as were resident from about 300 homes within a mile and a half of the plant.

At a press conference Wednesday, Rich Rowe, Arkema’s CEO said that if the volatile organic peroxides stored at the plant get too warm, some sort of explosion is inevitable.

“There is no way to prevent an explosion or fire,” Rowe said.

Okay, a few things.

One, why is this plant allowed to build so close to residential neighborhoods? Or, conversely, why were people allowed to build homes so close to a chemical plant?

Two, shouldn’t there be a supply of dry ice or something which could help keep those peroxides cool even if generators failed? Or, alternatively, shouldn’t plant owners be required to have some method of removing hazardous materials when disaster is imminent?

Three, if you have no way of preventing an explosion or fire, doesn’t that imply that the plant is inherently unsafe? Maybe you should pour a cement sarcophagus over the thing as was done at Chernobyl.

I know, I know. This is Texas, where regulations go to die and plants blow up with nary a consequence to their owners.

One Comment

  1. Do you hear an echo of the Fukushima nuclear plant, built essentially by the seaside? Another case where nobody believed the power system would ever fail… As Ellery Queen once wrote, “Y is a crooked letter.” There’s never a good answer.

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