HOUSTON — A grand jury indicted Arkema North America as well as the company's CEO and plant manager Friday after a facility was blamed for the toxic cloud that covered a Crosby community during Hurricane Harvey.
A U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigation revealed the chemicals at the Crosby plant had to be kept frozen to avoid bursting into flames, but temperatures rose after floodwaters knocked out the plant’s power. As a result, the chemicals exploded, causing a fire that burned and released a toxic cloud.
“As the hurricane approached, Arkema was more concerned about production and profit than people,” Environmental Crimes Division Chief Alexander Forrest of the Harris County District Attorney's Office said.
The company, CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle are named in the indictment, which claims each had a role in “recklessly” releasing chemicals into the air that placed residents and first responders at risk of serious bodily injury.
"Companies don’t make decisions, people do,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. "Responsibility for pursuing profit over the health of innocent people rests with the leadership of Arkema and those who poison our environment will be prosecuted when the evidence justifies it."
The charge carries penalties of up to five years in prison for persons involved and up to $1 million in fines for the corporation.