First responders who worked to evacuate the region around the Arkema chemical plant fire near Houston are suing the facility after they were left "doubled over vomiting" from fumes Arkema claimed were not "toxic or harmful in any manner," the Houston Chronicle reports. The Arkema plant was left dangerously flooded from the torrential rains of Hurricane Harvey.
Several refrigerated-truck containers of volatile organic peroxides exploded last week after cooling systems failed, sending up dark plumes of smoke. The seven responders are demanding at least $1 million for what they call "gross negligence" and Arkema's willful ignorance of the "foreseeable consequences of failing to prepare" for a disaster like Harvey.
The suit alleges:
Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosion, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road. Calls for medics were made, but still no one from Arkema warned of the toxic fumes in the air. Emergency medical personnel arrived on scene, and even before exiting their vehicle, they became overcome by the fumes as well. The scene was nothing less than chaos. Police officers were doubled over vomiting, unable to breathe. Medical personnel, in their attempts to provide assistance to the officers, became overwhelmed and they too began to vomit and gasp for air. [International Business Times]
The chemical fire at Arkema is under ongoing investigation. Federal regulations governing chemical plant safety haven't been updated since 1992, and experts say that the decisions to upgrade plants to the latest safety technology are mostly voluntary.