USA – Chemical Facilities Must Prepare for Extreme Weather Events Says Agency

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), the federal agency for chemical safety, has called for more robust industry guidance to help hazardous chemical facilities better prepare for extreme weather events.

CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Considering that extreme weather events are likely to increase in number and severity, the chemical industry must be prepared for worst case scenarios at their facilities. We cannot stop the storms, but working together, we can mitigate the damage and avoid a future catastrophic incident.”

The call came as CSB released its final investigation report into the August, 2017, fire at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas caused by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

In the days leading up to the incident, an unprecedented amount of rain fell at the plant due to Hurricane Harvey, causing equipment to flood and fail. As a result, chemicals stored at the plant decomposed and burned, releasing fumes and smoke into the air.

Arkema chemical plant after Hurricane Harvey floods. Photo: CSB

Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Our investigation found that there is a significant lack of guidance in planning for flooding or other severe weather events. Based on other government reports, we know that there is a greater likelihood of more severe weather across the country. As we prepare for this year’s hurricane season, it is critical that industry better understand the safety hazards posed by extreme weather events.”

CSB said that facilities should perform an analysis to determine susceptibility to potential extreme natural events such as flooding, earthquakes and high winds. If flooding is the risk, facilities must ensure that critical safeguards and equipment are not susceptible to failure by a common cause and that independent layers of protection are available in the event of high water levels.