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Posts tagged as “Hurricane Harvey”

Complications in Arkema trial

HOUSTON – Arkema SA’s U.S. arm has the dubious distinction of being one of few industrial companies charged with criminal behavior related to exploding chemicals and the fumes that came from those explosions after Hurricane Harvey.

The case will test if the states can hold companies, their decisions makers and personnel accountable for not handling their products safely.

Arkema’s Richard Rowe, the U.S. Chief executive of the company, and Leslie Comardelle, the plant manager, are charged with reckless emission of air contaminants. Michael Keough, then Vice President of Logistics, who helped coordinate the response to a situation in which some chemicals would explode was charged with assault on first responders who inhaled fumes after “a controlled explosion,” alleging that it was an assault on a public servant after select chemicals exploded.

The threat for these executives is a possible five years in jail for endangering the public and the company could be fined about a million dollars. All pleaded not guilty in court.

Related cases have made everything somewhat complicated. Arkema Inc. wants a pretrial consolidation of eight law suits for 750 plaintiffs that allege harm by chemical releases. On April 20, the company asked Texas Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation to appoint a pretrial judge to oversee the pending cases now in six district courts within Harris and Liberty Counties against 63 defendants. Defense attorneys say similar complaints are related to failure to prevent the release of the toxic fumes.

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Arkema trial begins

The flames that evacuated over 200 neighbors after they had flooded.

CROSBY – Three men and the company they work for begin trial next Monday on criminal charges for explosions, fumes and fires related to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

After the deluge of over 40 inches, the flood killed power to the plant 175 tons of chemicals that become volatile if they are not congealed within their chilly temperature range were taken to a location away from other chemicals and allowed to blaze and explode.

A grand jury concluded Arkema was responsible for the release of a toxic cloud over the Crosby community, prosecutors announced last year.

Arkema North America, its CEO Richard Rowe, and plant manager Leslie Comardelle, are named in the indictment. Mike Keough was charged with felony assault for “causing bodily injury” to two sheriff’s deputies because the company withheld information from first responders that was vital to their safety and the safety of others. Keough is now retired.

The company lawyers, Arkema North America’s, are arguing that the series of incidents were an “act of God” but local authorities say it is time that chemical companies were held accountable for decisions that endanger the public and public servants.

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Hurricane Harvey’s impact on healthcare

Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, and State Senator Carol Alvarado, address the problems of inadequate healthcare in Harris County.

NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY – The U.S. Census indicates that this area of Harris County from Kingwood to Lynchburg went from 14% without health insurance to about 21% following Hurricane Harvey. This is generally thought to be a product of locals having to make the difficult choice of spend the money to have health or spend the money to restore living.

Recently leaders in the health field and Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, along with other public officials, addressed the state of health in Harris County on November 13 talking about the economic impact and healthcare needs.

A survey provided a picture of Hurricane Harvey depriving locals of access to quality healthcare. In addition to the data and research on health care in Harris County the research suggests ways to improve it.

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ARKEMA: Safety Board must develop plan for reporting emissions

CROSBY – The Arkema accident continues to have repercussions at a national as well as local level.

The U. S. Chemical Safety Board has dropped an appeal of a federal court decision that requires the agency to regulate the reporting of chemical emissions resulting from accidents like the one at Arkema Chemical Company, in a motion filed August 8th, 2019.

That was related to Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on Feb. 4 that the Chemical Safety Board had to develop a final requirement for organizations to report chemical releases to the agency.

The CSB subsequently tried to get that decision reversed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

A lawsuit was filed concerning a chemical release from Arkema Inc. after Hurricane Harvey flooded the area and some inadequately refrigerated chemical decomposed and caught fire. Then they were allowed to explode and some 21 people needed medical attention from exposure to toxic fumes. Plaintiffs in the federal suit include Air Alliance Houston, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

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Project Recovery Harvey has funds available

Project Recovery Harvey is open to Homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey, or, depending on the program, the floods of 2015, 2016, & 2017, who are U. S. Citizens and Permanent Legal Residents.

The first step is to complete the pre-application to determine which program you may qualify for by visiting www.HarrisRecovery.org.

After you complete the pre-application, you should receive an email verifying that your information has been recorded. Help is available by calling 832-927-4961 or stop in to speak with an intake specialist at any location listed here.

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Harris County Public Health surveys Huffman and Crosby residents

Assessing Resilience and Recovery in Residents Post-Hurricane Harvey

HOUSTON — Harris County Public Health (HCPH) staff and volunteers will go door-to-door in the Huffman/Crosby area to assess residents’ needs more than a year and a half after Hurricane Harvey. This area affected by flooding during Harvey and some residents are still trying to recover. Survey results will be shared with local, state, and federal public partners to better understand how residents were impacted, what their current needs are, and how to better prepare residents for future emergencies.

On Saturday, June 8, survey teams will visit randomly selected homes in the Huffman/Crosby area. Survey takers will be asking residents how they have fared in since Harvey, and what their current needs are. Some of the questions will include the following:

• Was your home flooded?

• Do you still have damage?

• Did you have mold in your home?

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Harvey Recovery Program starts in Barrett Station

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO announces the start of the Recovery program, as Malcolm Barrett and Adrian Garcia look on.

BARRETT STATION – The new leadership of Harris County turned out in force to announce Harris County Project Recovery-Harvey Program at the Harris County Barrett Community Center last Saturday.

Lina Hidalgo, Harris County Judge, Adrian Garcia, Precinct 2 Commissioner, Daphne Lemelle, Harris County Community Services Director and a host of county community workers from varied agencies were present to share their expertise enabling residents to get help for their houses, the services they need to recover from Hurricane Harvey.

Harris County Project Recovery-Harvey is for homeowners outside Houston to apply for home repair, reconstruction or reimbursement.

The new Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo indicated that the county is giving out about $200 Million in this program.

“Harvey was an especially difficult disaster because it got to the core of people’s lives because it reached into their homes, in their housing. People’s homes are anchors for them and their families. When people lost their homes and were forced to leave and live somewhere else, they were still forced to watch and wait until they could rebuild and return. That destroys and disrupts the rest of their lives and the fabric of our community.”

“For the first time we are making a massive investment in housing around Harvey,” said Hidalgo, indicating that the program was to be the largest investment a region has made in the area of housing repair.

“It helps us build a stronger community and a more resilient community in all of Harris County,” the Judge concluded.

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Arkema faces new charges

CROSBY – According to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg a grand jury has indicted Arkema Inc. and Mike Keough, the company’s vice president of logistics, on a felony charge of causing bodily injury to two sheriff’s deputies by withholding critical information needed by first responders to protect themselves and the community from chemicals released when Arkema’s Crosby Plant caught fire after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Said Ogg on April 10, “The facts show Arkema knew of the dangers, withheld vital information, and unleashed harm on first responders and the community. This felony indictment is a wake-up call to companies that would pollute our air and waterways, ignore best practices in safety, and put our communities at risk.”

Rusty Hardin has been retained by Arkema as attorney and answered the charges on the company’s website.

“Harris County prosecutors are doubling down on an unprecedented and outrageous attempt to criminalize a natural disaster,” Hardin said in the statement.

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CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS: Supplemental funding legislation draws from “Rainy Day Fund”

By Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — A few of the funding priorities expressed by the executive, legislative and judicial branches are not covered in Senate Bill 2, the state’s tentatively approved appropriations bill for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

So, on March 13, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of SB 500, $6 billion in supplemental funding to plug many holes. Some $4.3 billion of the total would be taken out of the Economic Stabilization (“Rainy Day”) Fund. Authored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, the legislation proposes the following allocations:

• $3 billion for Hurricane Harvey recovery expenses;

• $2.1 billion to address the Medicaid shortfall;

• $100 million for school safety, with an amendment that gives districts greater flexibility on the type of safety equipment they can buy;

• $300 million to improve state hospital facilities;

• $542 million to address pension liabilities for the Teacher Retirement System and provide retired teachers a “13th check” up to $500;

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Sand mining makes waterways impact

NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY – Modern politics has certainly discovered that a tension exist between bustling business, construction and environmental concerns. No one wants jobs to go away or to be poisoned.

Anyone can bet that concrete is necessary for construction. Sand is necessary for concrete. The Greater Houston Area is burgeoning, trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey. A tension has emerged with questions of ‘did digging for sand along the San Jacinto help flood the unincorporated areas during Hurricane Harvey?’

In northeast Harris County sand has become one of the largest industries locally. Nationwide it accounts for nearly $8.billion dollars.

In Austin, the Texas Legislature, typically a business friendly bunch, is looking into what needs to be done about mining sand. One proposed law would call for a new inspections program and require a hydrology assessment for permits to mine. This new law would make it a crime to lie about records and activities. Republican Governor Greg Abbott asked state regulators to more closely monitor and back up existing rules in sand mining.

The Harris County Flood District is planning to look more closely at the industry and practices.

Those that lost their homes in Hurricane Harvey have asked if larger amounts of sand that settled down the river contributed to making the outcome of the storm worse on those living on the river.

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Wrist Band studies check exposure to toxins after Hurricane Harvey

Silicone Wristbands were worn by participants for one week, to register any toxins they were exposed to.

After Hurricane Harvey, Oregon State University’s Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology send a research team to Houston, to ascertain the threat to human health from exposure to toxins in the water, soil and air. They worked with Texas A&M, and THEA to gather the results.

Data was collected by using passive wristband samplers to determine personal chemical exposure after the flooding.

These wristbands can measure up to 1,530 different chemicals. 41 Superfund sites in Houston were affected by the hurricane, and 13 of these were flooded.

Although the study was conducted throughout the Houston area, a subset of 32 people were recruited from the Highlands area, and of these 27 returned their wristbands and had them analyzed.

Researchers looked for 1,530 chemicals found in several different chemical classes. Some chemicals are included in more than one class. For example, triclosan is found in both personal care products and is considered a pesticide. On average, each person had 28 chemicals in their wristband.

They measured chemicals at the nanogram level, which is a very small amount. However, they are still learning how much of a chemical is needed to cause a negative health effect.

Of the Highlands sample group, 119 chemicals were found across all 27 wristbands. 1411 chemicals were not detected.

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