Texas, known for its vast landscapes and booming industries, also holds a less enviable distinction: it leads the nation in the number of chemical incidents. With its dense concentration of chemical plants, refineries, and industrial facilities, the state has become a hotspot for accidents involving hazardous materials.

Below, the chemical injury lawyers are Kherkher Garcia explore the reasons behind this troubling trend and offer practical advice for residents and communities to prepare for potential chemical incidents.

The Scale of the Problem

The chemical industry is a cornerstone of Texas’ economy, providing jobs and contributing significantly to the state’s GDP. However, this industrial abundance comes with inherent risks. Chemical incidents range from spills and leaks to fires and explosions, each posing serious threats to public health and the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Texas consistently records the highest number of chemical incidents in the country.

Several factors contribute to this alarming statistic:

  • Concentration of Chemical Facilities: Texas is home to numerous petrochemical plants, oil refineries, and chemical manufacturing facilities. The Gulf Coast region, in particular, hosts one of the largest concentrations of petrochemical industries in the world.
  • Aging Infrastructure: Many of these facilities were built decades ago and are now facing issues related to aging infrastructure. Corrosion, outdated technology, and insufficient maintenance can lead to equipment failures and accidental releases of hazardous materials.
  • Regulatory Challenges: While there are stringent regulations in place, enforcement can be inconsistent. Budget constraints and political factors can impact the effectiveness of regulatory agencies tasked with overseeing chemical safety.
  • Extreme Weather Events: Texas frequently experiences extreme weather, including hurricanes, floods, and severe storms. These natural disasters can damage industrial facilities and increase the risk of chemical releases.

Examples of Chemical Incidents in Texas

Texas has witnessed numerous chemical incidents in recent years, underscoring the need for heightened safety measures and community preparedness. Below are some notable examples that highlight the ongoing challenges and risks associated with the state’s chemical industry.

ITC Deer Park Fire (March 2019)

A massive fire broke out at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) petrochemical storage facility. The fire started in a storage tank containing naphtha, a flammable liquid used in gasoline production, and quickly spread to several other tanks.

The fire lasted for several days, releasing large plumes of black smoke visible for miles. The incident prompted local authorities to issue shelter-in-place orders for nearby communities due to air quality concerns. Additionally, firefighting efforts led to contaminated runoff entering the Houston Ship Channel, causing environmental damage.

TPC Group Port Neches Explosion (November 2019)

A series of explosions occurred at the TPC Group chemical plant, which produces butadiene, a chemical used in synthetic rubber production. The initial explosion was followed by multiple smaller explosions over several days.

The blasts caused significant damage to the plant and nearby homes, leading to the evacuation of thousands of residents within a four-mile radius. The incident resulted in three worker injuries and widespread property damage. The explosions also raised concerns about air and water contamination.

ExxonMobil Baytown Refinery Explosion (December 2021)

An explosion occurred at ExxonMobil’s Baytown refinery, one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the United States. The explosion happened in a hydrotreater unit, which removes sulfur from crude oil to produce cleaner-burning fuels.

The blast injured several workers and caused significant damage to the refinery. While no toxic releases were reported, the incident led to heightened safety and regulatory scrutiny. The explosion also reignited public concerns about the safety of aging infrastructure in large industrial facilities.

LyondellBasell La Porte Chemical Leak (July 2021)

A chemical leak at the LyondellBasell plant resulted in the release of approximately 100,000 pounds of a mixture of acetic acid and other chemicals.

The leak caused the deaths of two contractors and injured dozens of other workers. Nearby residents were advised to shelter in place as a precaution. The incident led to significant concerns about the plant’s safety protocols and emergency response capabilities.

KMCO Crosby Plant Fire (April 2019)

A fire broke out at the KMCO chemical plant following a leak in a transfer line that ignited isobutylene, a highly flammable gas.

The fire resulted in one fatality and multiple injuries. The blaze prompted evacuations within a one-mile radius and extensive firefighting efforts. The incident highlighted the dangers associated with handling highly flammable chemicals and the need for robust safety measures.

Dow Chemical Deer Park Fire (April 2019)

A fire erupted at the Dow Chemical plant, which produces various chemicals, including ethylene, propylene, and butadiene.

The fire led to the temporary closure of parts of the Houston Ship Channel due to concerns about air quality and water contamination. Although there were no reported injuries, the incident emphasized the recurring risk of fires in chemical facilities and the importance of effective emergency response strategies.

The recent chemical incidents in Texas serve as stark reminders of the risks associated with the state’s thriving chemical industry. While these incidents have varied in scale and impact, they collectively highlight the critical need for enhanced safety measures, robust emergency preparedness, and ongoing regulatory vigilance.

The Impact on Communities

Chemical incidents can have devastating consequences for nearby communities. The immediate effects often include:

  • Health Hazards: Exposure to hazardous chemicals can cause acute health issues such as respiratory problems, skin irritation, and poisoning. Long-term exposure can lead to chronic conditions, including cancer and neurological disorders.
  • Environmental Damage: Chemical spills and leaks can contaminate soil, water, and air, leading to long-lasting environmental damage. This contamination can affect local ecosystems and make the area uninhabitable for wildlife.
  • Economic Costs: Cleanup efforts, medical expenses, and property damage can impose significant economic burdens on affected communities. Additionally, there can be long-term economic impacts if the incident disrupts local industries.

Preparing for Chemical Incidents

Given the high risk of chemical incidents in Texas, it is crucial for residents and communities to be well-prepared. While there is no real way to prepare for all the many factors that contribute to chemical incidents, there are some strategies that can enhance preparedness and safety. Consider the following:

Education and Awareness

Knowledge is the first line of defense. Residents should be informed about the types of chemicals used in nearby facilities and the potential risks associated with them. Community meetings, informational brochures, and local government websites can provide valuable information.

  • Know the Chemicals: Learn about the specific chemicals used or produced in nearby facilities. Understanding their properties, potential health effects, and emergency response measures can help in planning.
  • Stay Informed: Sign up for alerts and notifications from local authorities and organizations that provide real-time information about chemical incidents.

Emergency Planning

Communities should have a comprehensive emergency plan that outlines procedures for different types of chemical incidents. This plan should include:

  • Evacuation Routes: Clearly marked and well-publicized evacuation routes can save lives. Regular drills and exercises can ensure that residents are familiar with these routes.
  • Shelter-in-Place Guidelines: Sometimes, it may be safer to stay indoors during a chemical release. Establish clear guidelines on how to seal your home and protect yourself from airborne contaminants.
  • Communication Plans: Establish a reliable communication network to disseminate information quickly during an emergency. This can include social media, local radio stations, and community alert systems.

Emergency Kits

Prepare an emergency kit that can be easily accessed in case of a chemical incident. This kit should include:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Masks, gloves, and goggles to protect against chemical exposure.
  • First Aid Supplies: Basic first aid items to treat injuries until professional help arrives.
  • Essential Supplies: Bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, and other essential items for a few days.

Community Involvement

Building a resilient community requires active participation from all members. Here are ways to get involved:

  • Community Groups: Join or form community groups focused on emergency preparedness. These groups can organize training sessions, distribute information, and provide support during emergencies.
  • Volunteer Programs: Participate in local volunteer programs that work with emergency services. Volunteers can play a critical role in disaster response and recovery efforts.

Collaboration with Industry

Engage with local industries to ensure they are committed to safety and transparency. Industry collaboration can involve:

  • Facility Tours: Request tours of nearby facilities to understand their safety measures and emergency plans.
  • Regular Meetings: Hold regular meetings with industry representatives to discuss safety concerns and improvements.
  • Community Advisory Panels: Establish advisory panels where community members can provide input on safety practices and emergency preparedness.

Personal and Family Preparedness

Ensure that every household has a plan for chemical emergencies. This should include:

  • Emergency Contacts: Maintain a list of emergency contacts, including local emergency services, family members, and neighbors.
  • Family Drills: Conduct regular drills to practice evacuation and shelter-in-place procedures.
  • Health Precautions: Be aware of any pre-existing health conditions that may require special attention during a chemical incident.

While Texas’ position as a leader in chemical incidents is concerning, proactive steps can significantly mitigate the risks and enhance community resilience.

What to Do if a Chemical Incident Affects Your Family

A chemical incident can have devastating effects on your family, posing serious health risks and causing significant emotional and financial stress. If your family is affected by such an incident, taking prompt and effective action is crucial. Here’s what you should do:

  • Ensure Immediate Safety: First, prioritize the safety of your family. Evacuate the area if you are instructed to do so by authorities or if you sense danger. Seek immediate medical attention if anyone exhibits symptoms of chemical exposure such as difficulty breathing, dizziness, or skin irritation.
  • Report the Incident: Notify local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the incident. Accurate reporting is vital for initiating an investigation and controlling the spread of hazardous substances.
  • Document Everything: Keep detailed records of the incident, including the time, location, and nature of the exposure. Take photographs and collect medical reports. This documentation will be crucial for any legal action or insurance claims.
  • Consult Legal Counsel: Seek advice from a law firm experienced in handling chemical exposure cases. They can guide you through the complexities of environmental law, help you understand your rights, and represent your interests in seeking compensation for medical expenses, property damage, and other losses.

Navigating the aftermath of a chemical incident requires careful and informed steps to protect your family’s health and legal rights.

Free Chemical Injury Consultation

If your family has been affected by a chemical incident in Texas, a chemical injury lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and possible options pursue compensation. At Kherkher Garcia, our team has more than 30 years experience helping injury victims obtain justice and compensation after incidents involving oil, gas, chemicals, or other industrial settings.

We know how to fight for victims’ rights when negligence results in injuries or death. Find out how we can help you by contacting us for a free chemical injury consultation. Call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our online contact form.

Image by vwalakte on Freepik

Schedule a free Consultation

Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

Learn moreRead more articles