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What's next? Killeen chemical plant likely to advance

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Chemical plant

A sandbox used during the groundbreaking ceremony for the MGC Pure Chemicals America plant sits at the plant’s site location in the 4500 block of Roy J. Smith Drive in Killeen, located in the Killeen Business Park, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017.

Despite the public backlash to news of a chemical plant coming to Killeen, the emergence of MGC Pure Chemicals America’s second American location in Central Texas will go on as planned. That’s according to John Crutchfield, the executive director of the Killeen Economic Development Corporation.

“I have not talked to the company in a while but I have not heard otherwise,” he said in an email exchange with the Herald on Wednesday.

MGC’s plant will be built in the Killeen Industrial Park off Twin Creek Drive. The plant will produce superpure hydrogen peroxide, a cleaning chemical used in the semiconductor industry.

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Killeen Business Park map

That type of product is used to produce several everyday items, such as camera lenses on phones and tablets. MGC is set to create 28 new jobs with an average annual salary of $66,000 over the next five years, according to the Killeen EDC.

Killeen residents have raised safety concerns about the plant, and more than 100 of them attended a Sept. 28 community meeting on the subject. Click here to see video.

Concern had risen after a fire at the Arkema plant in Crosby. The Houston-area chemical plant, which uses hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals, caught fire after floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey engulfed the plant’s two generators, knocking out power. A lack of refrigeration caused some chemical compounds to catch fire, according to news reports.

THE DEAL

Crutchfield said during the community forum that MGC has the ability to back out of the deal with Killeen’s EDC. He didn’t say whether KEDC could exit.

Mayor Jose Segarra, who is a member of the Killeen EDC board of directors, said it was his belief that there was no way for the Killeen EDC to back out of the deal, at the risk of being sued.

When Crutchfield was asked to confirm this, he declined. “I am not an attorney and learned long ago not to speculate on legal matters, real or imagined,” he said in an email.

The Killeen EDC and MGC signed a performance agreement Aug. 2. In that agreement, there appears to be no specific language about what would happen if the EDC decides to withdraw from the deal. MGC is obligated, however, to construct a 20,000-square-foot plant, make a capital investment of more than $23 million, to pay certain salaries and to hire a fixed number of employees. Crutchfield has given no indication that he would make any attempt to disrupt MGC’s plans to come to Killeen.

NEIGHBORS

Mae West Lane is a retired U.S. Army veteran who lives on Creekside Drive, about a mile from the future site of the plant. She’s a breast cancer survivor, and has gone through two open heart surgeries. She has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes it difficult to breathe. The last thing she wants is something moving in with the potential to cause her health any more harm.

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Chem Plant

Mae West Lane is photographed inside of her home on Creek Side Drive in Killeen. Lane is concerned about the potential health issues that the new MGC Pure Chemicals America plant could bring after it is built near her home.

“I’m not anti-industry,” she said. “If we could find any other company to come in here, I’d start a petition in favor of them. But not a chemical plant.”

Lane is writing a petition that opposes the plant to present to the parties involved, the Killeen EDC and MGC. Once the petition is completed — Lane said it’s currently “in the formatting phase” — she will go door to door collecting signatures. Many residents in her neighborhood of retired military veterans and senior citizens are on her side, she said. At a recent Neighborhood Watch meeting, nearly 100 people said they opposed the plant, she said.

“A chemical plant that’s close to us is really bad news,” she said. “We are having challenges now, and accidents do happen.”

“There has to be something ... If we have to go to Congress, we will.”

WHAT'S NEXT

Before MGC begins construction, it will have to go through a long permitting process with both the city of Killeen and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. According to TCEQ spokesman Andrew Keese and Houston-based attorney Dennis Spurling, that permitting process must include a public forum in which the public has the right to voice support of or opposition to the plant. Unfortunately, the public often lacks knowledge of the forum.

“Nine times out of 10, no one shows up unless there are the diehards who are searching for that in the back of the newspaper on a page hardly anyone reads,” Spurling said.

MGC has still not filed any applications for permits with the TCEQ, according to Keese. It’s difficult to say what kind of permits they might need before anything is filed.

Two possibilities are an air permit by rule or a new sources review permit. An air permit is the state air authorization for activities that produce more than a minimal level of emissions but too little for other permitting options. A new sources review permit requires industrial facilities to install modern pollution control equipment when they are built or when making a change that increases emissions significantly.

The plant likely would need other permits, such as a wastewater permit and an industrial hazardous waste permit, according to Keese, though there’s no way to be sure just yet.

“Since the TCEQ does not have an application in house, it is difficult to provide accurate information on what would be required,” he said in an email.

MGC has said in the past that its plant will give off no intentional emissions.

The company has filed one permit application with the city: a land disturbance permit, which is a site work permit. That application is still under review, according to Killeen city spokeswoman Hilary Shine.

ARKEMA

A class action lawsuit was filed against the owner of the Arkema plant in Crosby. It states that organic peroxides were stored in refrigerated trailers. When refrigeration was lost, the products decomposed, ignited and sent up a cloud of fumes that included plastic containers, truck tires and insulation. Tests detected toxic substances in soil, water and ash samples from residents’ properties miles away from the plant, according to The Associated Press.

The suit faults Arkema and the French parent company for failing to take more precautions to control flooding, since the government had designated the area a flood plain.

Spurling is the attorney representing a group of 13 people who filed the class action lawsuit against Arkema. He wouldn’t comment on specifics regarding that lawsuit, because it is pending, but said the goal is to make sure that all of the landowners are compensated. The fire makes it more difficult for residents to sell or lease their property, and it has reportedly left debris in neighbors’ yards that require special attention.

“Who’s going to clean it up?” Spurling said in a phone call Friday morning.

The lawsuit states the exclusion perimeter of 1.5 miles in which the residents were evacuated was not far enough to “adequately protect either first responders or those living beyond the perimeter who were not evacuated.” It also states residents who lived within the zone suffered damage to property because mold was allowed to grow in their homes for eight days until the exclusion zone was lifted.

“Defendants could have prevented or avoided this accident with better precautionary measures, compliance with applicable regulations, and the use of reasonable care,” the lawsuit said. “The foreseeable risks of harm posed could have been reduced or avoided by reasonable instructions or warnings when it became clear that toxins had been released into the environment.”

There are several stark differences between the Crosby Arkema plant and the proposed plant in Killeen. For one, the MGC plant is expected to have just three different chemicals on-site: hydrogen peroxide, sulferic acid and sodium hydroxide. Arkema kept 32 different chemicals on-site, and while sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide are among them, it also had mineral oil, sodium bicarbonate, and sulfur dioxide on-site among other raw materials.

The hydrogen peroxide MGC keeps on-site is 31 percent concentrated. The hydrogen peroxide Arkema kept on-site is 70 percent concentrated.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires chemical plant companies to implement, test and maintain explosion suppression systems. A written emergency response plan is also required, and must be detailed as to which type of emergency — for example, a spill, a fire or an explosion — it is prepared to respond to.

Killeen Fire Department Chief Brian Brank described how his department will prepare for a potential chemical spill at a Sept. 28 forum.

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Killeen Fire Department Chief Brian Brank

Killeen Fire Department Chief Brian Brank

The fire department will consider the plant a target hazard, meaning it will pre-plan for any type of incident. KFD will take into consideration any fire suppression, fire hydrants, fire lanes and water supply needed to operate in case of an emergency.

But Crutchfield said there were very few similarities between the Arkema plant in Crosby that caught fire, and the plant coming to Killeen. When asked, he wrote off the possibility of an explosion or a fire in Killeen.

“If we get 6 feet of water, we have bigger issues to worry about here than a chemical plant,” he said at the forum.

According to a material safety data sheet provided on MGC’s website, 31 percent hydrogen peroxide is “Stable under normal conditions; however, heat or contamination may result in decomposition, which may be violent.”

Hydrogen peroxide reacts with combustible materials or organic materials, releasing heat and oxygen. Contact with metals, metallic ions, alkalis, reducing agents and organic matter, such as alcohols, may produce self-accelerated thermal decomposition, the data sheet said.

According to the MSDS, sulfuric acid is nonflammable, and not likely to combust. However, it will react with water or steam to produce toxic and corrosive fumes. Sodium hydroxide is “slightly explosive in the presence of heat.”

254-501-7552 | sullivan@kdhnews.com

(4) comments

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

@Timebandid: You have asked some of the most important questions that revolves around this issue, namely: 'Is there a condition in which a group, namely KEDC has the authority to act on behalf of a city council in which there is but two entities that are authorized to act on their behalf, the city council and the city manager', and why was it not necessary to 'get this before the city council, in open session, and call for a vote'.
To my knowledge, this has not come before the city council for a vote so I would conclude that 'this was not a vote that would be binding on a city, that the KEDC acted 'on it's own' by signing that contractual agreement with no invlvement of this city.

I have been asking 'what is the limits of this city as to in what way are they obligated to 'make good on what'. As of this date, I have not received in answer to these various questions.
The question would be: 'to what is this city obligated i regards to this particular contract? Again, I have not received any answer.

Again I am in agreement with your synopsis, It is my opinion that this mayor has once again 'over stepped his office', with the dual responsibilities of mayor of this city and his boundaries to which is is authorized to act in accordance with this city's charter.

Again, as you have stated, 'there are a limited number of job openings, and some of them will be existing company personnel with the remainder only promised 'part time employment', the question should be: how many of the positions, out of the 28 total considered, are going to be full time positions in accordance with the offer 'of high paying jobs for Killeen' or said another way: 'how many of the jobs will be offered to existing Killeen citizens and not from outside of this country'???? And as to your further inquiry, 'who does this venture truly benefit and why are we even considering putting it here at tax payer expense

Why are we, as citizens of this city, being pushed into approving something that we just don't want? Also, why in the world should the city even consider giving financial incentives to a company that will bring so few jobs to our city? I seriously doubt that even with this small number of job openings that more than 6 or 8 are actually from Killeen, and those could possibly be only part-time. The higher paying jobs will be imported from Japan and the Austin area. So , who does such a facility truly benefit? And, 'why are we even considering putting it here at taxpayer expense'????

These are very good questions to relate to the citizens of this city, Why, Why, Why.... Does someone else have any questions or opinions as to 'Why' this city has chosen to obligate this city in this fashion????

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

timebandid

If a contract to which there is "no way out" was signed prior to a review by the city council, the mayor should be fired. It is truly possible for the KEDC to enter into a contract of this magnitude without any city counsel approval? There has been no real investigation into the potential environmental effects a spill, fire, or power loss could have on the surrounding area. The citizens have only been given assurances that this would probably not happen here. But what if it does? And who's to say that after the company begins operation the number of chemicals that they chose to have on site and the concentrations of those chemicals doesn't drastically increase? Why are we, as citizens of this city, being pushed into approving something that we just don't want? Also, why in the world should the city even consider giving financial incentives to a company that will bring so few jobs to our city? I seriously doubt that even with this small number of job openings that more than 6 or 8 are actually from Killeen, and those could possibly be only part-time. The higher paying jobs will be imported from Japan and the Austin area. So , who does such a facility truly benefit? And, why are we even considering putting it here at taxpayer expense?

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

I today's newspaper there is a series of articles showing the 'progress' or should I say the 'digress' of the new chemical plant that is being 'shoved down our throats by the 'KEDC.

Copy: 'Is the chemical plant worth the risk?
Sep 30, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Why the secrecy, residents ask at forum
Sep 28, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Reminder: Killeen chemical plant meeting Thursday
Sep 27, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Explainer video to be shown at chemical plant forum Thursday
Sep 26, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Forum to discuss proposed chemical plant in Killeen
Sep 23, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Awaiting answers to questions about MGC chemical plant
Sep 19, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Killeen councilwoman: Forum will hopefully provide answers
Sep 16, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Forum planned to answer questions about incoming chemical plant
Sep 13, 2017

Continuation of copy: 'Killeen councilman calls for forum on chemical plant
Sep 7, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Ceremonial groundbreaking held for chemical plant
Aug 30, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Local university to influence type of industries coming to Killeen
Aug 15, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Chemical company will focus recruiting efforts locally
Aug 12, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Chemical plant construction in Killeen to begin within a month
Aug 11, 2017'.

Continuation of copy: 'Japanese chemical company to open up plant in Killeen
Aug 9, 2017'. End of copy.

From this compilation, you can see what the progress of the city has accomplished with it's 'not wanting to proceed with this chemical plant construction' to the KEDC Board of Directors 'wanting to proceed with it's project to spend the city's money'.

Now I feel this writer along with certain 'other's' have spoke in defense as to why this chemical plant should not be constructed at it's present location'. while other's, namely 'The KEDC Board of Director's' continue to 'barge ahead with the construction of this chemical plant', not to mention 'the lack of the city council in open session having a vote taken on this subject', apparently moving in a direction , in 'secrecy' to do what I don't know, perhaps reaching the conclusion of 'not requiring a vote on this matter'. I don't know, but if they, the mayor who is also on the Board of Director's, Segarra and at least one councilman, Rivera, can cause the disruption of the process of 'having a city charter that encompasses the city manager and the city council to 'have the say in how this city function's'.

I don't know 'why' other's, except for councilwoman Shirley Fleming and councilman Steve Harris have not been vocal on this subject. Are the rest of you, Councilman Jim Kilpatrick, councilman Jonathan Okray, councilman Juan Rivera, who is on the KEDC Board of Director's, councilman Gregory Johnson, and councilwoman Debbie Nash King along with our illustrious city mayor, Jose L. Segarra, our newly appointed city manager, Ron Olsen, and the entire staff of this city's administrative group feels about this chemical plant coming into this city in it's present location. How about it people, are you willing to 'go on notice as to the position you will take or not'???? Are you 'for the construction of this chemical plant at it's present location or against this chemical plant construction at it's present location'. For once, stand up and be counted.

I note that on August 11, 2017, the header: 'Chemical plant construction in Killeen to begin within a month' and now on October 7, 2017, it states: 'Before MGC begins construction, it will have to go through a long permitting process with both the city of Killeen and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. According to TCEQ spokesman Andrew Keese. Now which of these articles showing the 'correct time line'???? Again I say, 'Stand up and be counted, take a stand on where you are on this pending presentation of action'. Either you side with the 'Killeen residents have raised safety concerns about the plant, and more than 100 of them attended a Sept. 28 community meeting on the subject', or you just don't give a crap about what the 'more than 100 residents that raised safety concerns about the location of this chemical plant.

Copy: 'Crutchfield said during the community forum that MGC has the ability to back out of the deal with Killeen’s EDC. He didn’t say whether KEDC could exit.'
Continuation of copy: 'Mayor Jose Segarra, who is a member of the Killeen EDC board of directors, said it was his belief that there was no way for the Killeen EDC to back out of the deal, at the risk of being sued.'
Continuation of copy: 'When Crutchfield was asked to confirm this, he declined. “I am not an attorney and learned long ago not to speculate on legal matters, real or imagined,” he said in an email.' End of copy.

To me, there is too much ambiguity about the 'operation of this city and this council'. If there is 'no way to get out of a contract that was entered into 'without the city council being notified and getting approval, then I don't know why we have a city council in the first place', and to this extent, I would suggest that 'this city needs improved legal advice, as with this contract, it is apparent to me, and I am not a legal attorney, but with the preparation of a contract that is so one-sided as this one appears to be, that maybe this city does have the need to prevent such contracts in the future.

I could impact the new question of whether or not this city wants to plow ahead with the construction project of the 'Public hearing scheduled for proposed Rosewood Drive extension project' this date.

So I ask you, 'Where does this city administrative group, including the city council, the city manager, and this city's mayor stand on this proposed chemical plant addition, in it's present location'. I say: 'stand up and be counted'.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

My oh my, 'Where to start'.

In the first place, this article is written in such a fashion that when you finish reading it, you don't really know any more than when you first started.

It is written in the language of English that 'knows no bounds, but is invested with superlatives 'that do not describe just what the destructive power the agent, or agents, is capable of.

When dealing with chemical compounds, certain restrictions and limitations should be taken into account.

Copy: 'Concern had risen after a fire at the Arkema plant in Crosby. The Houston-area chemical plant, which uses hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals, caught fire after floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey engulfed the plant’s two generators, knocking out power. A lack of refrigeration caused some chemical compounds to catch fire, according to news reports.' End of copy.

First: let's look at the following; You are dealing with a chemical compound that (1) the two generator's were knocked by rising floodwaters knocking out power, (2) the lack of refrigeration 'caused some chemical compounds to catch fire', according to news reports.

What was the aspect of 'commercial power' in that region that the 'two emergency generators' were conspicuously 'knocked out' of service'????

What were the chemical compounds mentioned and were they 'as dangerous as others'???? No mention as to the severity of 'other chemicals and compounds'.

This entire paragraph can be summed up to say (?) nothing and everything at the same time. Which compounds are dangerous to the extent 'that they can be dangerous to life and limb'. The 'what if's are too numerous to count'.
Let us 'cut to the chase' and just say. 'if this plant is known to be hazardous, then we need to require an 'ESD - Emergency Shut down system', for this plant that will be 'fail safe' in nature. This would include all conditions that could include all known or unknown conditions, 'A what if scenario'. And let us say that 'this would include all conditions such as 'natural catastrophic events including 'acts of Nature (God)' if you will. A paper should be included in the first draft of any and all permits to be warranted' as necessary for the application process itself.

Question: 'Does the owner of this facility guarantee that they will install such a design that will ensure this facility to be 'fail safe'???? I believe this should also be included in these 'first draft to include final documents to be placed, as a contingency, in the design documentation'.

Copy: 'Crutchfield said during the community forum that MGC has the ability to back out of the deal with Killeen’s EDC. He didn’t say whether KEDC could exit.'

Why????

Continuation of copy: 'Mayor Jose Segarra, who is a member of the Killeen EDC board of directors, said it was his belief that there was no way for the Killeen EDC to back out of the deal, at the risk of being sued.' End of copy.

Again, Why????

From the sentence structure of the foregoing, 'It would appear that (1) Crutchfield does not know whether or not the contractual agreement that exists between the KEDC and the company and/or the parent company can be broken on both sides of the fence whereas our illustrious mayor Jose Segarra, is confident that 'there is no way for the KEDC to get out of this binding and strangling contract that is one sided'. That's our mayor for you, gets in over his head and then admits 'there's nothing to be done', the same as with the water system a couple of years back. It sounds to me, and this is just a personal observation, that 'We need others to take a look, and as safeguard for the citizens of this city, in regard to what can or cannot be done to protect this city, this community', but 'what do I know'....

This is at least twice now that this excuse has been used, first in regard to the increase that is being 'forced down the throats of the citizens and now this little escapade'. Do you think that maybe we should have an 'outside consultant, of our choosing, look at the proposed documentation including any and all contractual agreements???? It would sure be good, but that again is a personal observation'.

Question: 'Who did TECQ employee, Andrew Keese, work for before this last assignment????

Copy: “Since the TCEQ does not have an application in house, it is difficult to provide accurate information on what would be required,” he said in an email.' End of copy.

In my personal opinion, 'that's an evasive answer'. While it is true that the complete answer in all areas would and could not be answered, the general question of 'what are the general requirements of a chemical facility going to be if a facility was going to be built'???? This question 'could' be answered. The same holds true for the fire department.

Copy: 'Killeen Fire Department Chief Brian Brank described how his department will prepare for a potential chemical spill at a Sept. 28 forum.
The fire department will consider the plant a target hazard, meaning it will pre-plan for any type of incident. KFD will take into consideration any fire suppression, fire hydrants, fire lanes and water supply needed to operate in case of an emergency.' End of copy.

Fire Chief, Brian Brank, did not even address the issue of a power failure, the temperature elevation, and the resultant exposure of an explosion, just fire suppression, fire hydrants, dire lanes and water supply, not an explosion that could send debris over a large portion of this city.

Copy: 'There are several stark differences between the Crosby Arkema plant and the proposed plant in Killeen. For one, the MGC plant is expected to have just three different chemicals on-site: hydrogen peroxide, sulferic acid and sodium hydroxide. Arkema kept 32 different chemicals on-site, and while sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide are among them, it also had mineral oil, sodium bicarbonate, and sulfur dioxide on-site among other raw materials.' End of copy.

In my minds eye, it takes just one dangerous chemical, Sulfuric Acid, to make this plant not to be addressed to the citizens of Killeen. Sulfuric Acid is a very dangerous chemical compound that should not be introduced into his facility. And in my opinion, anyone who does not know the full extent of writing a contract for a individual or a company who does not 'see' what the ramifications are 'should not be in the employee of a company. I am speaking of 'what is the company going to do in the event of citizens, who were not informed in the first place and now objects to this facility coming into this town and posing such a risk to the populace'.

Question: Who 'owns' the land that encompasses the ' Killeen Economic Development Corporation'????

Who are the 'legal company's' that are representing the ' Killeen Economic Development Corporation' and/or the city of Killeen????

I have been trying to get the city of Killeen to answer this question. Just what are the legal parameters of this contract between the city of Killeen and the company in question. If, as the mayor states, that 'there is not an out, for any and all reasons', that the city was negligent in the selection of this legal company.

This should have been discussed in the secret meeting that was for the purpose of answering this question. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but in any event apparently this discussion never took place so the question of 'What's next? Killeen chemical plant likely to advance' is very premature and the discussion, in open city council' should be addressed and made public at least 72 hours in advance of the meeting date. People should have the opportunity to 'oppose' this venture.

In my opinion, the KEDC was negligent in not putting this before the city council, especially when they had a responsibility to the citizens of this community and the cost that would be associated with it. Besides, as mentioned previously, the hiring of a total of 28 employees, of which would be 'others' resulting in only a total of 21 employees, and of that group a clause that would permit the splitting of these positions into 'part time positions' does not bode too well 'for the upgrade of this city's employment picture'.

I suggest you get it out in the open for discussion of the entire city council, in an open session, and there discuss the ramifications of just what is in the best interest of the city of Kileen.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.58 % who voted.

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