"HOUSTON — A series of explosions at a flood-damaged chemical plant outside Houston on Thursday drew sharp focus on hazards to public health and safety from the city’s vast petrochemical complex as the region begins a painstaking recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
The blasts at the plant, owned by the French chemical company Arkema, came after its main electrical system and backups failed, cutting off refrigeration systems that kept volatile chemicals stable. While nearby residents had been evacuated, 15 public safety officers were treated at a hospital after inhaling smoke from chemical fires that followed the explosions.
The Arkema plant has been identified as one of the most hazardous in the state. Its failure followed releases of contaminants from several other area petrochemical plants and systemic breakdowns of water and sewer systems in Houston and elsewhere in the storm-struck region.
The explosions — more are expected, the company said — will bring fresh scrutiny on whether these plants are adequately regulated and monitored by state and federal safety officials."