If Thanksgiving is a national day of giving thanks and gratitude, we are certainly grateful that no one was killed in the two monumental blasts and devastating fire that rocked Port Neches, Texas. Powerful explosions at the TPC Group chemical plant broke windows for miles around. The resulting fire was visible from space. We are also grateful for local first responders who risked their lives for several days fighting the fires.
Two TPC Group employees and one contractor were reportedly injured. Thus far there is no reports of injuries to nearby residents or firefighters.
Our concern now shifts to the long term environmental, health and property damage effects. TPC Group has already announced on their website that insurance adjusters will be coming around to neighborhood homes and business. A “toxicology consulting and emergency preparedness” company called CTEH will also be responding to pick up debris and hazard materials that may have landed in residents’ yards.
For two days, some 50,000 people in Port Neches, Groves, Nederland and Port Arthur faced serious disruption to their lives after being ordered to evacuate. For many, that meant no Thanksgiving dinner.
The company says it will do the right thing and pay for any damages. In the short term, we expect it will pay for minor damages such as hotel expenses, restaurant meals for displaced residents and broken windows. But what about businesses who lost profits? What about long term health effects, increased cancer risks and hidden structural damage?
Yesterday we specifically wrote about all of these things on our TPC Port Neches environmental and insurance information post. We also provided helpful tips to local homeowners.
Already, several class action lawsuits have been announced. Local lawyers are lining up to help residents who want the plant closed or at least cleaned up and for homeowners who want their homes repaired. Our interest is in the long term. Long after the reporters and lawyers leave, what happens when business owners find hidden structural damage? What happens if firefighters or people living downwind develop mesothelioma? If residents develop cancer?
That is where we can help. Once again, we suggest you read our cornerstone post on the TPC Port Neches Chemical plant explosion. Many of these questions are answered there.
In this post we will address the more generic issue, can I sue TPC Group?
Can I Sue TPC Group? (TPC Lawsuit Answers)
The answer to the question is, of course, yes. The better question is, “Should I sue TPC?”
If you are damages are minimal and you are satisfied with the compensation offered, you may not have any reason to sue. We suggest, however, that you consult with a local lawyer before signing any release or endorsing any settlement check. Ditto if TPC or your insurance company refuses to pay a legitimate claim. If you can’t find someone, check with the Jefferson County Bar Association in Beaumont, Texas.
Depending on the wording of the release, in return for a couple hundred bucks, that release could cost you the you the right to sue TPC Group if you later develop cancer, find your property is contaminated with MTBE or discover hidden structural damage. A lawyer can insure your rights are protected and that you don’t lose your rights by accepting their check.
I am a lawyer and even I would hire someone to review any settlement documents before signing!
The same advice also applies if you choose to work with your own insurance company instead of TPC Group directly.
Port Neches Area Business Owners Need Legal Counsel
If you are a business owner, give us a call directly. Working with our Texas partners, we can help insure that you receive full compensation for all your losses. That includes lost profits and any hidden structural damages.
Chemical plant and refinery explosions can create a massive pressure wave that can damage the seal on windows and on your building. That means water can later make its way into the structure causing mold, rot and tremendous property damage. Because many of the damages are invisible, they may not be found for years. In other words, when it is too late.
We can supply an expert to assess your damages and see if there is something the adjuster missed. Remember TPC Group’s adjusters as well as those employed by your insurance company are in the business of avoiding claims whenever possible. The profit by not paying claims.
Long Term Health Effects
TPC Group operates two chemical plants in Texas. The Port Neches plant makes a variety of products including butadiene and methyl tera-butyl ether (MTBE). After lead was banned in gasoline, MTBE was used as a replacement to boost octane. It is an extremely toxic chemical. Many states have now banned its use but we still export it to other countries. The TPC Port Neches plant is one of the largest manufacturers of MTBE in North America.
How much MTBE may have been spilled or released into groundwater remains to be seen. The investigation into the blast and the environmental impacts are likely to take months.
Butadiene is another major product at the plant. It is a gas used in the production of synthetic rubber. The EPA classifies it as a known human carcinogen.
The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and EPA have been continuously monitoring air quality near the plant. Immediately after the explosion, measurements as high as 6200 ppb of volatile organic compounds were measured downwind in Port Arthur, Texas. Short term exposure to VOCs at 325 ppb can cause headaches and respiratory irritation. Longer term exposure can have more serious and permanent effects.
The EPA has been monitoring for butadiene. Thus highest level reported was 32.17 ppb. That was detected four miles from the plant on November 29th. The CDC says the “maximum airborne concentration below which it is believed that nearly all persons could be exposed for up to 1 hour without experiencing or developing irreversible or other serious health effects or symptoms that could impair their abilities to take protective action is 200 ppm”.
We understand that the math can be hard to follow. 32.17 parts per billion converts to 0.032 ppm, an amount well below the CDC’s guidelines. At least that news is good.
We believe the real long-term risk remains the MTBE. Once in the groundwater, it spreads quickly and may be impossible to clean up.
We also know that asbestos was used in the plant. The explosion has spread asbestos contaminated debris throughout the neighborhood and also endangers anyone downwind of the smoke plume. As I update this post on Saturday, the evacuation order has been lifted but fires continue to burn.
TPC Class Action Lawsuits
Already three class actions have been filed. Should you participate in one of these lawsuits? Generally we think that the lawyers bringing these class action lawsuits* are doing a service for the community. An individual TPC lawsuit can be prohibitively expensive. Going up against a large petrochemical company and its two hedge fund owners is no easy task.
Depending on what the class actions seek, they are probably a good fit for the average homeowner looking to avoid an expensive TPC lawsuit on their own.
Ultimately, a judge will have to decide if TPC lawsuit can proceed on a class action basis. if so, you will likely receive a notice in the mail explaining your right to participate in the lawsuit by opting in or opting out. In our experience, class actions don’t work well for people with injuries. Those cases are better handled as individual cases. The same is true for large commercial property owners with very specific property damage claims or claims for hidden damages and lost business claims.
Call a Port Neches Chemical Plant Explosion Lawyer Today
Once again, if you have broken windows or hotel bills, you probably won’t need to file a TPC lawsuit. We do urge you, however, to consult with a local lawyer before signing any releases.
If you are a business owner worried about hidden structural damage or later develop health concerns, call us. We and our Texas partners and experts can help you decide if you need a lawyer.
We can be reached online, by email or by phone . All inquiries are protected by the attorney client privilege and kept confidential.
Whistleblower or TPC insider? We want to talk to you too. Confidentiality assured.
*Brian Mahany is admitted in federal court in Texas. As of this writing, Mahany Law has no interest in any of the pending class action lawsuits and has no intention of filing one. We are limiting our interest to serious environmental claims, injuries and hidden damages in large commercial property owner cases. Any services in Texas handled with local counsel. This post is offered for general information and is not intended as a solicitation.
Post Update: See our new TPC Legal Options video