UPDATE: ExxonMobil has been hit with a lawsuit by the Harris County Attorney’s Office just 1 day after an explosion at the Baytown refinery injured 37 workers. The lawsuit is not seeking financial compensation for injuries, but rather violations of the Texas Clean Air Act.
August 1, 2019 — At least 37 workers were injured after a fire and explosion erupted at the ExxonMobil Baytown refinery near Houston, Texas.
The incident occurred shortly after 11:00 a.m. yesterday at ExxonMobil’s 3,400-acre refinery complex in Baytown, located 25 miles east of Houston.
The fire sent large plumes of black smoke into the sky. By the afternoon, the fire was isolated but had not yet been extinguished.
At least 37 people suffered minor 1st-degree burns, but no one was hospitalized, according to plant manager Jason Duncan. Authorities say 66 people were sent for medical evaluation.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, but it began in a part of the facility that purifies the chemical propylene, which is used as a fuel and in making plastics.
The facility also processes light hydrocarbons, such as propane. EPA records show large quantities of hazardous chemicals on site, such as ammonia, benzene, and propylene.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality monitored air quality after the explosion, but did not report any concerning findings.
Even so, the Harris County Attorney’s Office has filed a lawsuit accusing Exxon Mobil of violating the Texas Clean Air Act by releasing “unauthorized emissions into the atmosphere.”
This is the second recent fire at the ExxonMobil Baytown oil refinery. On March 16, another fire erupted at the complex. The fire was extinguished within a few hours, but officials say it continued to release toxic pollutants into the air for another 8 days.
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