In a state court lawsuit filed in Houston, seven first responders to the fires at King of Prussia-based Arkema Inc.’s Crosby, Texas plant on Aug. 31 have sued the chemical maker and three executives, accusing them of “gross negligence,” failing to plan for the power and refrigeration failure that led to the decay and burning of truckloads of chemicals, and failing to warn them of the danger before they breathed in fumes while on duty outside the plant.
According to the lawsuit, medical and police responders exposed to the initial fire had trouble breathing, and some had to be assisted to leave the site. Police have said at least 15 medical responders went to hospitals to be checked for smoke inhalation.
Those suing Arkema include Christy Graves, Chief of Emergency Medical Services for District No. 5, and six deputies and officers with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The suit was brought for the responders by Houston attorneys Kimberely M. Spurlock and Misty A. Hataway-Coné of Spurlock & Associates and Mo Aziz of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz.
Arkema hasn’t responded to questions I gave the company’s King of Prussia spokesman on Tuesday. In public statements and news conferences last week, officials apologized for the fires and resulting evacuation of residents within a three-mile radius of the plant, urged residents to call them if soot landed on their property so they could have it tested, and offered to help dispose of dead livestock and pets as residents returned home this week.
The company officials added that the extreme rainfall from Hurricane Harvey and the resulting power outage of several days’ duration was unexpected, and said the company’s response, to let the chemicals burn and eventually have them set on fire, was appropriate under the circumstances.