Crosby, Texas – Three Arkema SA executives have been cleared of criminal charges over a series of explosions at the company’s Crosby site in August 2017, which led to a major evacuation operation in the region.
In a 1 Oct statement, the French speciality chemicals supplier said judge Belinda Hill cleared Arkema North America CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle of playing a role in “recklessly” releasing chemicals into the air, putting residents and first responders at risk.
In addition, “assault charges” against former logistics executive Michael Keough and Arkema Inc. were dismissed ‘mid-trial’, the company announced.
“This trial sought to criminalise the impact of a natural disaster that Harris County itself was not prepared for,” said the company statement.
"We communicated extensively with the Unified Command that coordinated emergency response, and explicitly warned that emergency responders should wear respirators if they might be exposed to smoke from the fires," said Arkema in its statement.
"We cannot fathom why they did not do so, but it certainly was not for lack of warnin," it added.
The explosions at the Crosby plant took place on 31 Aug 2017 in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, after power-cuts led to the loss of refrigeration for some organic peroxides at the site, which exploded due to high temperature.
The Crosby plant makes liquid organic peroxides that are used primarily in the production of polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC and acrylic resins, as well as polyester-reinforced fiberglass.