‘It’s not anything toxic’: 15 deputies hospitalized as precaution after peroxide bursts at flooded Arkema plant in Crosby

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CROSBY, Texas — Explosions did not lead to the hospitalization of more than a dozen  deputies early Thursday outside a flooded chemical plant in Crosby, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the incident happened sometime shortly after midnight at the Arkema peroxide plant. However, the commotion didn’t involve explosions but scheduled, non-toxic bursts.

“It’s not anything toxic. It’s not anything that we feel is a threat to the community at all,” Gonzalez said. “It was not an explosion; I want to be very clear.”

One deputy has been taken to the hospital after he inhaled fumes from the Arkema peroxide plant, the sheriff’s office tweeted. Fourteen others were also taken to the hospital as a precaution, the sheriff’s office said.

Eight of the 15 officers have since been released from the hospital. Meanwhile, seven deputies are still being evaluated. Gonzalez said the deputies experienced eye irritation and other discomforts after being exposed to the smoke.

The sheriff’s office said different grades of peroxides were being released in sequence, which created a loud pop followed by foggy and then black smoke.”

“This event has been expected and planned,” Gonzalez said. “We working out here closely, between the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Fire Marshal’s Office.”

The facility, which is between Houston and Beaumont, had been closely monitored after plant officials said they expected a chemical reaction that will likely cause a fire that will “resemble a large gasoline fire.”

The thick black smoke from the bursts “might be irritating to the eyes, skin and lungs,” Arkema officials said in a statement.

The company shut down the facility as Harvey approached last week and evacuated employees as well as residents within 1.5 miles of plant as a precaution after it was flooded under more than five feet of water.

“There is a small possibility that the organic peroxide will release into the floodwaters but will not ignite and burn,” the company said in a statement.

The flooding in southeast Texas has severely affected oil and chemical plants. Many have shut down operations in the past few days, including, the Colonial Pipeline, which carries huge amounts of gasoline and other fuel between Houston and the East Coast. Valero and Motiva, the largest refinery in the country, have also closed some facilities.

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