The KMCO LLC chemical plant in Crosby, Texas has two significant periods in its existence. These two periods can be described as pre-KMTEX ownership and post-KMTEX ownership. Despite having different owners over the years, its history is consistently filled with safety violations, environmental hazards, and tragedy.
Late Tuesday morning, the KMCO plant exploded and became the second in the Houston area to explode in less than three weeks. Houston has a chemical plant explosion problem—and the companies who profit from operating in this city must improve their safety standards for the sake of workers and surrounding residential areas.
The Cost of Doing Business with KMCO
How much does a plant cost to run? For the KMCO plant in Crosby, the cost has far exceeded its value in cash. Since the plant opened decades ago, it has accrued millions in fines, killed one person, and injured seven more. Since 2009, KMCO has accumulated more than 60 OSHA violations and has paid more than $4 million in penalties.
“As long as I’ve been doing environmental work for Harris County, I’ve been involved in cases with this company, either with the previous owner or the current owner, and I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years. This company has been around forever causing trouble,” said Rock Owens, managing attorney for the Harris County Attorney’s environmental section.
A Timeline of KMCO’s Safety Issues & Violations in Harris County
Harris County files its first lawsuit against the company. The case resulted in KMCO paying $49,750 for violating the Texas Water Code.
Harris County sues the KMCO plant once again. The lawsuit ended with KMCO paying $100,000 in civil penalties to residents who complained of headaches caused by spills and fumes from the plant.
A Christmas Eve explosion sends three employees to the hospital.
Just months after the Christmas Eve explosion, another blast sends two more workers to the hospital.
Harris County files another lawsuit against KMCO after numerous complaints about odors coming from the plant. This case is still ongoing.
After a complaint of “black residue” appearing in a creek near the KMCO plant, Harris County sent an investigator to the creek for more information. The investigator reported that the black residue was emerging from two pipes on the southwest edge of the KMCO facility. After finishing her work, the investigator felt lightheaded, and an orange-sized knot developed at the base of her neck. Harris County added this incident to its ongoing lawsuit against KMCO.
KMCO’s parent company KMTEX pleads guilty to criminal violations of the Clean Air Act. These violations were related to an explosion at KMTEX-owned plant in Port Arthur and by air emissions from the KMCO plant in Crosby.
The Crosby KCMO plant explodes, killing one worker and injuring two more. Early reports indicate that a leaking pipe caused the explosion. Harris County has not stated if it would use add this explosion to their current lawsuit against KMCO.
The Chemical Plant Industry Needs Significant Safety Reform
With two significant chemical plant explosions in the Houston area in just over two weeks, residents, workers, and employees deserve answers. After years of fines, it’s time to start asking when companies will be held accountable for their negligence. Fines serve as a slap on the wrist for companies that have plenty of money for them; workers and those living near plants deserve real changes to industrial safety to protect their health before its too late.
Arnold & Itkin will continue to monitor this story as investigators uncover more details about the accident. If you were working at or living near the KMCO plant at the time of its explosion, call our plant explosion attorneys today at (888) 493-1629. Consultation with a member of our team is free.