Texas hosts a large number of chemical plants, many of which are sited are sited in or near towns. In 2013, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded in a blast that flattened much of the town, killed 15 people, and left behind a 93 foot crater. In 2016, the ATF determined that the explosion was a criminal act that appeared to be deliberate.
The explosion at West was small compared to the one that took place in Texas City, Texas in 1947. On that occasion, more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer carried on a freighter exploded in the harbor. It generated one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and killed 581 people. It’s generally considered the worst industrial accident in American history.
Despite past disasters, Texas maintains lax regulations regarding the siting of plants.
Five days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant leveled a wide swath of this town, Gov. Rick Perry tried to woo Illinois business officials by trumpeting his state’s low taxes and limited regulations. Asked about the disaster, Mr. Perry responded that more government intervention and increased spending on safety inspections would not have prevented what has become one of the nation’s worst industrial accidents in decades.
“Through their elected officials,” he said, Texans “clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight.”
The potential for explosion at the Arkema plant is not known.
The Federal Aviation Administration has temporarily barred flights over the area near the plant because of the risk of fire or explosion.
Earlier predictions have proven accurate.
The Harris County Emergency Operations Center notified the company around 2 a.m. of explosions at the site and also reported black smoke coming from the area. …
One deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the chemical plant and nine others drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution, Harris County Sheriff’s Office reported in a tweet.
Another nine deputies have driven themselves to the hospital after exposure to fumes. Other trucks remain on the site that have not exploded, but those are thought not to be as much of a risk in the short term.
The plant manufactures organic peroxides commonly used in everyday products like kitchen countertops, industrial paints, polystyrene cups and plates and PVC piping. The materials must be kept very cool, but refrigerators for the plant’s low-temperature containers are out of commission, and backup generators were also swamped, meaning “the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real,” the company said.