5 Ways Chemical Company Arkema is Communicating Health Risks in Harvey’s Wake

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New Hurricane Harvey-related public health concerns arose Aug. 31 when two explosions were reported at a chemical plant in Crosby, TX, about 25 miles outside of Houston. The plant, owned by French chemical company Arkema, lost power on Aug. 26 as a result of Harvey's floods, according to Business Insider.

The outage disabled refrigeration of peroxides used in plastic manufacturing, which can explode when not properly cooled. Crosby officials evacuated a 1.5-mile radius after a group of 15 law-enforcement officers and paramedics were hospitalized following exposure to smoke-carried irritants.

Here are five ways Arkema's communications team has responded to the crisis so far.

  • Arkema issued a release Aug. 29 stating the plant had "safely shut down all operations before hurricane landfall." The release described the situation at the site as "serious" and noted emergency efforts would be "limited...until the storm abates."  Arkema did not sugarcoat the possibility of explosions, stating "the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines is real."
  • The company launched a microsite detailing the status of the Crosby plant. The site includes an emergency hotline, lists of the chemical products manufactured at the plant and evacuation instructions for residents of the site's surrounding area.
  • On Aug. 30, Arkema released a statement from company president and CEO Rich Rowe apologizing to those impacted, announcing the setup of an emergency call center and thanking local officials and agencies for their cooperation.
  • Arkema's communications team has posted to its official Facebook page three times since the explosion, mirroring existing press releases and echoing Rowe's apologies and thanks to the employees who shut down the sites. As of this writing, Arkema officials did not appear to be responding publicly to commenters. In its Aug. 31 post, Arkema included four aerial photos of the submerged plant:
  • In a call with reporters on Sept. 1, Rowe indicated further fires were likely, stating "the only recourse is to let the eight containers burn out," according to ABC News. Regarding the release of more information on specific toxins and risks, Rowe told reporters that Arkema was balancing "the public's right to know and the public's right to be secure."

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