A chemical plant in Crosby, Texas is in a critical condition after its refrigeration system and backup power generators failed, raising the possibility that the volatile chemicals on the site would explode.
All residents within 1.5 miles of Arkema Inc were evacuated on Tuesday because of the increasing risk of an explosion.
Arkema had shut down the plant last Friday, anticipating the storm before hurricane Harvey made landfall.
The chief executive said on Wednesday the company had no way of preventing chemicals from catching fire or exploding at its heavily flooded plant.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) August 30, 2017
The company evacuated remaining workers on Tuesday and Harris County ordered the evacuation of residents in a 1.5-mile radius of the plant that makes organic chemicals.
Richard Rowe, who is CEO of the company’s North America unit, told reporters the company expects chemicals on site to catch fire or explode within the next six days. He said the company has no way to prevent a fire or potential explosion near the plant that is swamped by about six feet of water.
The plant evacuated its remaining workers on Tuesday amid the risk of an explosion after Tropical Storm Harvey knocked out power and flooding swamped its backup generators.
Arkema said in a statement the situation at its Crosby, Texas, plant “has become serious.”
The plant has been hit by more than 40 inches of rain and was heavily flooded and has been without electric service since Sunday. Back-up generators have largely been inundated with water, the company added.
The key issue is maintaining refrigeration for chemicals on site, which are stored at low temperatures. The plant lost refrigeration when backup generators were flooded and then workers transferred products from the warehouses into diesel-powered refrigerated containers.
The company said some refrigeration of back-up containers has been compromised because of high-water levels and the company is monitoring temperature levels remotely.
“While we do not believe there is any imminent danger, the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real,” the company said.
Arkema is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the state of Texas to set up a command post near the site.
U.S. Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, wrote on Twitter that the Crosby plant “is in danger of fire/explosion. The local area is being evacuated. Stay out of area.”
Harvey, which came ashore in Texas last week as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, has caused catastrophic flooding.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency referred questions to Texas authorities, which did not immediately respond.