Nov 16, 2017

Plant Perplexity

editorial letter

At WEFTEC.17, I found myself wondering, how is it that I, a 24-year-old editor, have the opportunity to work with engineers, operators, and other water and wastewater professionals, test their technologies, and hear their stories. As associate editor for iWWD, I get a special glimpse into an industry that is increasingly relevant.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area at the end of August, the industrial market received significant attention. Southeast Texas is home to a number of refineries, petrochemical plants and other industrial facilities. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, after Harvey, there were nearly 100 reports of oil, chemical and sewage spills in the Houston area, alarming facilities and consumers alike. And, due to the storm and its residual flooding, U.S. exports took a major hit as production momentarily halted. While the economic penalties are difficult to ignore, industrial water and wastewater are of great concern to environmental and human health during such an event. In this case, drawing nationwide attention.

As of press time, more than a month after the weather event, many facilities are picking up the pieces and returning to normal production. However, not all refineries can leave Harvey in their rearview mirrors. The Arkema Inc. plant in Crosby, Texas, is facing two lawsuits from nearby residents, claiming floodwaters from the plant allegedly contaminated their properties.

After the storm, the Crosby plant reportedly experienced two explosions. This facility stores liquid organic peroxides, which pose more airborne than water-borne threats. Despite this, residents allegedly have experienced rashes from contaminated soil and water. While the outcomes of the lawsuits are to be determined, such concerns emphasize the importance of protecting and safely disposing of industrial wastewater.

The Crosby plant also provides an example of how a thriving facility can experience setbacks due to a major weather event and how these setbacks arrive in many forms. At WEFTEC.17, Pulsafeeder representatives explained that this facility was home to several of the company’s gear pumps—an appealing option to the industrial market—and that, despite the pumps’ resiliency in the face of such a storm event, even a plant of great size and success has to answer to mother nature.

What could the Crosby plant have done differently to prepare for Harvey? Share your thoughts at [email protected].

About the author

Lauren Baltas | Associate Editor | [email protected]

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