Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said there are no toxic emissions emanating from a Houston-based chemical plant that exploded Thursday morning, as the company that owns the plant supports allowing the chemical fires to burn themselves out.
Pruitt said there are "no concentrations of concern for toxic materials" emanating from the plant after several explosions rocked the neighborhood of Crosby, Texas, early on Thursday morning from the Arkema facility.
Arkema described Thursday's events as more akin to chemical fires than explosions. The explosions occurred spontaneously because electricity that supported constant refrigeration was no longer running. The company said it agrees with local authorities that the best course of action "is to let the fire burn itself out," according to a statement.
"We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains," the statement warned. "Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so."
Pruitt said he will consider using additional authorities available to him to "further address the situation to protect human health and the environment."
For now, EPA's focus is on preserving "safety of those around the facility and we urge those in the area to follow the safety instructions of local authorities," Pruitt said. "EPA is providing assistance and resources to the first responders in Harris County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency."
The explosion occurred after days of sustained flooding in southeastern Texas that cut electric power to much of the Houston. The company's chief warned Wednesday that with no power to run the facility's refrigeration, there was no way to prevent an explosion as chemical compounds become less stable.
Pruitt said they were able to survey the facility using aircraft equipped with emission monitoring devices to scan for any sign of a toxic plume emanating from the plant.
"EPA has emergency response personnel on the scene and the Agency is currently reviewing data received from an aircraft that surveyed the scene early this morning," Pruitt explained. "This information indicates that there are no concentrations of concern for toxic materials reported at this time."
Pruitt arrived in the area on Wednesday to meet with local officials and take his place at the federal emergency response center set up near Houston.