On the day before Thanksgiving last year, a massive chemical plant caught fire in the city of Port Neches, TX — less than a two-hour drive east of Houston. The fire started after twin explosions rocked the Texas Petroleum Chemicals Group-owned facility, and it was severe enough to make national news.
Chemical Plant Burns for Days
The first explosion at the TPC Group facility occurred at 1 a.m. on November 27, 2019, and a second followed just 13 hours later. The blasts rang out from a portion of the factory that made butadiene, a chemical used in synthetic rubber and other products. They were strong enough to rip doors off the hinges, shatter windows, and send debris flying in neighborhoods miles away.
Firefighters worked over the holiday to extinguish the fire, which burned out of control for over 48 hours. Ultimately, officials decided to let the dangerous petrochemicals burn out rather than continue fighting them. This took nearly a week. Three workers were injured in the explosion and subsequent fires, which also caused plenty of damage.
Thanksgiving Turns Toxic
After the explosions, officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of 50,000 people living near the TCP Group facility, which put a huge damper on Thanksgiving celebrations. In addition to ruining countless turkey dinners, the explosions and fires at TPC put tens of thousands of people at risk of toxic exposure. The smoke clouds billowing from the facility wafted into nearby neighborhoods, causing unknown health impacts.
Butadiene is a known carcinogen, and it is very dangerous to human health and the environment. While toxic chemicals like these are necessary for many important commercial activities, companies that use them are expected to follow state and federal safety standards. And unfortunately for the residents of Port Neches, the TPC Group does not seem to take these standards too seriously.
Explosions Follow Years of Non-Compliance
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had labeled the TPC Group a high-priority violator after finding the facility non-compliant with federal air pollution laws several times over the two years preceding the explosion. Many of the pollutants TPC Group leaked into the air were found to be preventable, but it does not seem as if the facility got the message that it needed to clean up its act. In fact, just one week after the Thanksgiving holiday fires, the company announced its plans to rebuild.
TPC Group’s plans to return to business-as-usual may have been hindered by a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed a claim against the company in February. The lawsuit seeks to hold TPC Group accountable for violations of state clean air and water laws, including actions related to the November 27 blasts. This legal action is an important move that will prove critical in protecting Texans from the impacts of pollution, but it is unlikely that this state action will provide direct compensation to the victims directly affected.
Anyone who suffered property damage or personal injury due to the TPC Group catastrophe last Thanksgiving week may be entitled to monetary damages for their loss. The skilled attorneys at Williams Hart have decades of experience litigating these matters, and they can help you get the compensation you deserve. If you or someone you love has been affected by the fire at the TPC Group facility or any other similar incident, contact us today. We’ll take the time to discuss your case and help you understand your rights with a free consultation.