Two explosions occurred at the TPC Group chemical plant in Port Neches, Texas on November 27th. Officials reported as many as 27 people were on site when the first explosion occurred. According to the U.S. News & World Report, three workers were hurt during the blast – two TPC employees and one contractor.
The first explosion occurred early in the morning around 1:00 a.m., and “was so powerful it shattered windows and ripped off hinges of nearby homes,” according to The Guardian. The second explosion occurred nearly 13 hours after and sent a steel reactor tower high into the air above. The top Jefferson County official, Judge Jeff Branick, quickly issued a mandatory evacuation and curfew for Port Neches, Groves, Nederland, and part of Port Arthur – which covered a four-mile radius around the TPC Group plant. Fires from the explosions were battled with water cannons, and finally ceased two days later, on November 29th.
The Texas Tribune reported that around 13,000 returning citizens were advised to shelter-in-place until the following week. On Wednesday night, December 4th citizens of Port Neches and Jefferson County were then again asked to leave their homes. The County claimed the voluntary evacuation order was issued “out of an abundance of caution,” stating: “It is recommended you leave the area as quickly and safely as possible as a protective action.”
The next day, the “Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management said that the shelter-in-place and evacuation orders were lifted due to improved conditions.” The Office stated that “a coalition of local, state and federal environmental and emergency management agencies actively responding to the incident is ‘continuously monitoring air in the community and will provide an update once an all clear is given.’”
The chemical that burned for two days following the explosion is Butadiene, which is used to make synthetic rubber and other products. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration acknowledges that “exposure to low doses of butadiene can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.” Further, “[h]igher doses can cause more serious issues such as vertigo, nausea, low blood pressure and fainting,” with long term exposure being linked to cancer.
The Frequency of Explosions at Chemical Plants, Oil Refineries, and Power Plants is Astonishing.
While it remains unclear exactly what caused the explosion in Port Neches, there is a common theme in most accidents of this kind: mistakes by operators or disregard for safety. The Texas Tribune reported that “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has considered the TPC facility a high-priority violator for more than two years.” According to ABC 13, four different plant explosions occurred in Southeast Texas this year alone.
What Can a Houston Industrial Accident Lawyer do for Victims of Plant Explosions
When governmental agencies fail to correct unsafe practices and enforce regulations, regular employees, citizens, and their families are the ones who suffer. A good lawyer will work with their client to determine the victim’s precise needs. They will advise on the best course of action and protect victims from companies that endanger them by profiting from unsafe practices.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death as a result of an oilfield, refinery, or chemical plant accident – you deserve to know your options. Contact our experienced industrial accident lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP to consult who have your best interest in mind. Our lawyers can determine the best course of action for your case, or advise you on your next steps moving forward. Morrow & Shepard LLP litigates all types of work injury cases and is here to fight for you.