By Alexis Schlatre, Guest Contributor
August and September were marked by three of the largest hurricanes the United States has seen since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are widespread throughout Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, leaving thousands of people out of their homes and businesses disrupted for weeks.
The chlor-alkali industry was significantly impacted due to facility shut-downs all along the Texas Gulf Coast. While the industry worked swiftly to get production back on-line, the first priority was to take care of the families and help them rebuild their homes.
At a time when division and hostility have been commonplace in the public forum, it is heartening to hear stories of people traveling thousands of miles to help folks rebuild. Louisiana’s own Cajun Navy joined in as dozens of private boat owners loaded up their rigs with supplies and headed toward the destruction. Similar efforts have been waged by organizations and businesses throughout the country, including many of the chlor-alkali manufacturers and producers who have rallied around their families and surrounding communities in both Texas and Florida.
Occidental Chemical Corporation estimates that nearly 400 of its employees were affected by the hurricanes. It immediately put together assistance programs to help those in need, including a Disaster Relief Program, providing up to $5,000 in tax-free reimbursements, a corporate-matching Employee Relief Fund, and interest-free loans of up to $10,000. Additional supplies, such as generators, dehumidifiers and food, were donated, along with temporary housing, short-term transportation, and thousands of employee volunteer hours.
Judith Nordgren, Chairman of Solutions Through Science and Managing Director of the American Chemistry Council’s Chlorine Chemistry Division (CCD), said these efforts are part of what makes the environment at these facilities so familial.
“It’s part of the nature of plant work to train and prepare for these types of events because safety is always the number one concern,” she said. “So, when communities are in need, it is natural for the facilities and their employees to step in to help.”
Olin Corporation directly put to use the chlorine it manufactures by donating 15,000 gallons of bleach and $250,000 to the Greater Houston Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, which represents Brazoria County where its Freeport operations are located. Many of the company’s Freeport and Houston employees were personally impacted by the hurricane and flooding. There are countless stories of employees who stepped up, helped out and simply got the job done – both in facilities and in the communities – during incredibly difficult circumstances. Olin also delivered essentials, such as food, water, dehumidifiers, generators and, of course, bleach to each of them.
In a similar vein, the American Chemistry Council’s CCD worked with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Mayor’s Office of the City of Houston to distribute 18,400 gallons of bleach to citizens throughout the greater Houston area. Additionally, they are partnering with World Vision, a global humanitarian organization, to donate 13,000 gallons of bleach to help with relief efforts in the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico. These donations will help those hit by Maria in Puerto Rico, Irma in Florida, as well as those still in need in Texas following Harvey.
BASF Corporation gave a significant financial contribution to help with disaster relief across Texas, donating $500,000 which was distributed to local non-profits involved in the rebuilding efforts. It also established a relief fund where BASF employees could make donations to coworkers or local organizations that were matched by the corporation up to $500,000. In addition, BASF provided employees with financial support, temporary housing and numerous supplies.
Outside of the U.S., the devastation from Irma in Haiti has resulted in the Southeast Clean Water Project’s calcium hypochlorite tablets to be diverted to emergency relief efforts, instead of sustaining clean drinking water systems recently established in the country. To replenish the depleted supply, Lonza has agreed to donate 6,100 pounds of calcium hypochlorite tablets.
“We are proud of how our industry has responded both to its employee families and the communities at large,” Nordgren said. “We expect these efforts will continue until the last vestiges of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria are mended. It demonstrates, yet again, the caring relationship we have with the people we live and work alongside.”
Alexis Schlatre is the executive director for Solutions Through Science (STS). STS is a partnership of the chlor-alkali producers and users in the state of Louisiana. Its mission is to promote the benefits of chlorine chemistry and its many products through educational outreach and issues management.
This article originally appeared on the Solutions Through Science website on November 17, 2017. It was re-posted here with the author’s permission.