Houston's damaged Arkema chemical plant recently lobbied against stronger chemical plant safety rules

An Arkema plant outside Houston burns
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/CBS 11 News)

Black smoke from ignited refrigerated-truck containers of volatile organic peroxides at Arkema's chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, early Thursday morning sent 16 Harris County sheriff's deputies to the hospital with respiratory issues, but none of the deputies are expected to have permanent damage and Arkema and the county fire marshal said they believe the smoke isn't toxic with limited exposure. Arkema also said the remaining eight tractors full of organic peroxides will probably combust, and the sheriff's office is enforcing the 1.5 mile-radius evacuation zone in the town, 25 miles northeast of Houston.

The Arkema chemical fires are only part of the hazardous combination of floodwater and 230 chemical plants, 33 oil refineries, and hundreds of miles of pipelines carrying dangerous materials in and around Houston, The Associated Press reports, citing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Sierra Club. Many of those facilities continue to report spills and leaks from Tropical Storm Harvey. The Houston area is no stranger to chemical plant explosions, and some residents in Crosby talk about environmental disasters "as Californians might discuss the inevitability of the next earthquake," The Washington Post reports. Others argue that unlike the hurricane, plant disasters are avoidable, as in this Thursday night report from CBS 11 News Dallas-Fort Worth:

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.