Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez claimed after explosions were reported at the plant that fumes emanating from the facility were "not anything toxic" and that inhaling them was just like "standing over a burning campfire."
The seven first responders who filed suit against Arkema Thursday disagree, claiming they sustained "serious bodily injuries" after inhaling smoke from the fire while "manning an evacuation perimeter a mile and a half from the plant," Reuters reported. They claim that Arkema's "gross negligence" in preparation for Harvey and its aftermath resulted in harm to medical personnel and law enforcement.
"As a result of Arkema's failure to prepare, its employees were forced to abandon the Crosby facility on August 29, 2017, leaving behind hazardous and toxic chemicals with no supervision," the suit reads.
The plaintiffs continued:
Those chemicals required refrigeration, and the lack thereof was going to undoubtedly cause the chemicals to break down and ignite. Knowing this, and upon information and belief it having happened before at this very facility, Arkema and its safety managers and engineers nonetheless failed to adequately prepare for back-up refrigeration of those chemicals in the event of a power outage or other catastrophe—an issue that Arkema has previously been cited for by governmental authorities.
Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosion, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road. Calls for medics were made, but still no one from Arkema warned of the toxic fumes in the air. Emergency medical personnel arrived on scene, and even before exiting their vehicle, they became overcome by the fumes as well. The scene was nothing less than chaos. Police officers were doubled over vomiting, unable to breathe. Medical personnel, in their attempts to provide assistance to the officers, became overwhelmed and they too began to vomit and gasp for air.