On May 17, after a fire erupted at a local LyondellBasell refinery, the national headlines read "No Injuries at Houston Refinery."
The source? 'Twas the friendly P.R. folks at Lyondell, of course.
Given this fact, perhaps it will come as no surprise to learn that there were in fact injuries. At least according to nine contract workers who were there that afternoon. And they are all suing the chemical and refining company for, among other things, "physical disfigurement."
The fire at Lyondell's Houston Refining facility along the Houston Ship Channel, a dozen or so miles from downtown, broke out at about 2:30 p.m. News crews caught pictures of heavy black smoke rising from the plant until the fire was extinguished an hour later. Nearby residents were ordered to stay inside and avoid breathing the potentially deadly toxins.
According to a report the refinery submitted to state regulators after the fire, more than 2,117 pounds of pollutants were emitted during the incident, including more than 280 pounds of a suspected carcinogen and more than 1,540 pounds of sulfur dioxide, which can cause respiratory and developmental damage.
None of the pollutants was allowable under their state-issued permits, according to an emissions report.
Inside the plant, nine contract workers were apparently victim to the blaze. According to their lawsuit, "The oil burning flames amassed and quickly set gigantic dark billowing plumes of noxious smoke high upwards and across the Houston sky. [Lyondell's] failure to prevent, detect, and/or adequately alarm of the fire resulted in serious personal injuries to the workers at the facility ...."
The nine men claim they received medical attention and are suing for medical expenses, lost wages and earning capacity, and physical disfigurement.
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