A Texas grand jury indicted a French chemical company Friday for the “reckless release” of toxic chemicals during an explosion induced by Hurricane Harvey flooding.
The Harris County District Attorney’s office charged Arkema North America CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle with the reckless release of chemicals into the air during an explosion at a plant in Crosby, Texas. The chemical release allegedly endangered volunteers and first responders who provided aid to the area after flooding from Hurricane Harvey. (RELATED: Here’s The Breakdown Of Hurricane Harvey And Irma By The Numbers)
“Companies don’t make decisions, people do,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said, according to LMT Online. “Responsibility for pursuing profit over the health of innocent people rests with the leadership of Arkema.”
“Indictments against corporations are rare,” Ogg added. “Those who poison our environment will be prosecuted when the evidence justifies it.”
Prosecutors argued the chemical company could have prevented the explosion and the release of chemicals. Various lawsuits recount that more than six first responders fell ill after the explosion, which reportedly continued to give off thick plumes of smoke and fire after the initial blast.
If convicted, Rowe and Comardelle could face five years imprisonment and fines of up to $1 million, according to The Associated Press.
A spokeswoman for Arkema said the company would challenge the indictment.
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