Sickened first responders sue over chemical plant fire during Harvey

As a result of the chemical explosion, the plaintiffs "began to fall ill in the middle of the road" and were bent over vomiting, the lawsuit alleges.
By Ed Mason | Sep 11, 2017
A lawsuit filed by first responders alleges that a flooded chemical plant outside Houston, Texas, was grossly negligent when seven emergency medical personnel and sheriff's deputies were sickened after a chemical fire broke out there during Tropical Storm Harvey. The plaintiffs are asking for $1 million in damages from the company, Arkema, a report by ABC News said.

Torrential rains from Harvey flooded the chemical plant with six feet of water and a power outage caused the plant's refrigeration system needed to keep the toxic substances stable to fail. The chemical compounds exploded in 30-foot-high flames on Aug. 31.

As a result of the chemical explosion, the plaintiffs "began to fall ill in the middle of the road" and were bent over vomiting, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit claims that Arkema failed adequately to prepare for a major flood or hurricane, even though these are foreseeable events, or properly to store the estimated 18 tons of chemicals it housed.

Kimberly Spurlock, attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that Arkema's preparations were "woefully inadequate" and that first responders had not been told about the risks in going near the plant during the flood and were not warned of dangers from toxic fumes.

"They weren't told to wear masks," said Spurlock. "They weren't told to go in there with safety equipment and they're suffering as a result."

Arkema has denied any wrongdoing, saying it will "vigorously defend" the lawsuit.

"We reject any suggestion that we failed to warn of the danger of breathing the smoke from the fires at our site or that we ever misled anyone," the company said, in a statement.

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