The 2017 Arkema Plant Explosion following Hurricane Harvey in Crosby, Texas
In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought destruction to southeast Texas. With the hurricane came extremely high water levels that the Crosby plant was not prepared for. In addition to underestimating the floodwaters, Arkema had not anticipated a total power outage at the plant. The Crosby plant housed thousands of pounds of organic peroxides, a chemical that is highly reactive and instable at temperatures above freezing. As water surrounded the emergency refrigeration trailers where organic peroxides had been moved to, temperatures inside the trailers increased and the peroxides began to self-heat, decompose, and combust. The combustion of three trailers caused an explosion whose effects are still felt in the Crosby community. The purpose of this report is to examine the decisions made by Arkema Chemical, using the AIChE code of ethics. Their decisions in preparation for Hurricane Harvey, during the hurricane and explosion, and after the explosion will be analyzed. Arkema acted unethically by not having the right preparations for Hurricane Harvey and not dealing with any aftereffects on the community. If Arkema had reexamined their safety protocols after receiving ten OSHA violations, the result may have been different. Although Arkema employees acted ethically during their emergency response to Hurricane Harvey, they neither prepared sufficiently for intense flooding nor responded adequately to the aftereffects on the community. Today, the Crosby plant is still running, but the explosion has not only made Arkema review their plans for natural disasters and general safety, but has made the entire chemical industry more aware of the need to be prepared for disasters no matter how improbable they may seem.