As dramatic as the explosion at the Arkema plant was, it is just one of a multitude of potentially dangerous gas and petrochemical plants and refineries that riddle the southeastern corridor of the state of Texas, reports the Guardian.
In fact, the Texas-Louisiana border has a total of 840 petrochemical, refining and power plants, operated by some of the world’s largest companies, including ExxonMobil and Shell Oil.
“Houston would be the largest hub of petrochemical and refining production capacity in all of North and South America, VP of global research at Industrial Info Resources Inc, a company that tracks chemical manufacturing worldwide.
While Hurricane Harvey may have been an unprecedented weather event in many ways, Charise Johnson, a researcher for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Guardian, state and local officials could have, and should have, safeguarded communities well before the storm. “We had it all. We knew how to prepare the communities. We knew how to prepare infrastructure. But that didn’t happen.”
Now scientists and rescuers have to deal with even more toxic environmental conditions — with air and standing water contaminated with heavy metals and polycyclic hydrocarbons, for example, the chemicals that come off of burnt materials.