Historic floods in the area of Houston, Texas caused by heavy rains accompanying Hurricane Harvey resulted in high water at a chemical plant operated by Arkema near Crosby, Texas. As a result of the flooding at the Arkema site, power was lost, so that organic peroxides requiring cold temperatures for stability (-18 C) began to warm up to the point at which they burst into flame. The chemicals were already packaged so it was not possible to neutralize or dilute them. After the original storage became untenable the materials were put into refrigerated trailers. The refrigeration on the trailers also failed and they were burned.
Emergency responders in the Houston area confront hundreds of chemical plants and refineries with little knowledge of what hazards may be present. An unplanned shutdown of one undamaged plant may result in release to the environment of tons of regulated substances. It is not known what chemicals have been released as a result of flooding over a wide area but environmental sampling already indicates problems. Responders to a location may have no knowledge of substances present nor ready access to safety information such as the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) that must be kept on hand at a manufacturing plant or storage facility.
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