HC Attorney Ryan sues Kuraray for 2018 explosion, alleges Clean Air Act violations

By David Yates | Feb 6, 2019

HOUSTON - Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed a lawsuit against Kuraray America for violations of the Texas Clean Air Act. The violations allegedly occurred as a result of an explosion and flash fire that occurred at the company’s Pasadena manufacturing plant in May 2018.

Through the lawsuit, the county attorney seeks a court order for Kuraray to engage a third party auditor to review its practices and equipment at the Pasadena plant to ensure there are no future violations. Ryan believes that unless Kuraray is ordered to improve manufacturing operations and procedures at its Pasadena facility, poor safety, operations and management practices at the site may cause future releases that will endanger the public and employees.

Kuraray America is an American subsidiary of a Japanese chemical manufacturing company. It specializes in chemical, fiber and resin production and began operations in Houston in 1986.

On May 19, 2018, a reactor at the plant at 11500 Bay Area Boulevard was pressured to the point that a safety valve lifted, which caused ethylene vapor in the reactor to be released into the atmosphere. The ethylene vapor encountered a contractor’s welding equipment, which acted as an ignition source and ignited, causing an explosion and flash fire. 

21 workers were injured and transported to area hospitals, three by medical helicopter. The fire is currently under investigation by the Chemical Safety Board and OSHA.

“Through this lawsuit, we will seek to ensure that Kuraray’s operations are carried out safely for people and the environment,” Ryan said. “This process will protect Kuraray’s workers and neighbors in the future.”

Ryan filed suit after Harris County Pollution Control issued violation notices to the defendant for unauthorized emissions of multiple chemical compounds, including ethylene and carbon monoxide, in exceedance of permit limits and for late reporting of the emissions.

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