CROSBY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – If dealing with a flooded-out home wasn’t enough, those who live in Crosby have also spent the twelve months since Hurricane Harvey dealing with a potential chemical disaster.
Last August, when Harvey dropped a record amount of rain on the Houston area, Mark Santos’ home filled up with floodwater.
So did nearby Arkema Inc. chemical manufacturing plant, knocking out its refrigeration and causing chemicals to ignite.
The fires lasted nearly a week, sending pollution into the air and floodwater.
Even when the water went down in Santos’ home, it was days before he was allowed back home because of the chemical threat.
“The very ground I’m sitting on is probably chemical infested,” said Mark Santos from his backyard a year after Harvey
Santos is one of hundreds of neighbors who have filed a lawsuit against Arkema, claiming the fires contaminated the community’s air and water and causing respiratory problems and headaches that, a year later, still plague some people.
Environmental advocates say the plant failed to take proper precautions before the storm and still has not.
“For the folks in Crosby, the biggest concern is we still haven’t addressed the same issue that we were talking about a year ago that we need changes in these risk management plans,” said Dr. Elena Craft with the Environmental Defense Fund.
Earlier this month, two executives from the plant were indicted for “reckless” release of toxic chemicals.
In a written response, Arkema spokesperson Janet Smith told the CBS 11 I-Team: “The criminal charges in this case are astonishing … there simply are no requirements or guidelines that could have prevented the incident in the face of such unprecedented flooding … [I]t’s outrageous to assert that Arkema or any of its employees behaved criminally.”
Santos, however, is not buying the argument that no one could have foreseen the flooding. The plant sits in the flood plain.
When asked if he feels more confident that the plant is better prepared for flooding now than a year ago, Santos quickly answered, “no”.