Houston Chemical Plant Not Allowed to Reopen after Fire, Explosion

HOUSTON (AP) -- A Houston chemical plant rocked by an explosion in December that could be heard miles away and burned for hours will not be allowed to resume production, a fire official said.

''We, the Fire Department, are not going to allow them to reopen,'' said George Meadows, chief inspector in charge of hazardous material inspections. ''There are just too many red flags coming up.''

He said his staff is going through reports on the Marcus Oil & Chemical plant, including one that dealt with ''substandard air quality'' caused by plant emissions. He said that other concerns involve the plant's use of certain equipment and chemicals without getting approval.

''So it looks like they just have a poor track record,'' Meadows said, ''and we don't feel comfortable allowing them to open back up. Period. We're also going to have to try to figure out some way to make sure that when they do close down that they don't leave a mess behind.''

Meadows said he plans to send written notification next week telling Marcus officials that they will not be issued any permits and asking them to submit a facility closure plan.

Marcus Oil & Chemical manufactures polyethylene waxes used in products such as paints, asphalt, polishes, printing inks and high-gloss fruit coatings.

City Councilman Michael Berry, who is serving as the city administration's point man on the issue, said a cease and desist order was issued last week to stop ''any operations at the plant.''

The owners of the plant, Abbas and Aziz Hassan, had no comment Thursday about the city's decision to prevent them from reopening.

Residents of houses and apartments in the area reported broken windows and damage to walls, ceilings and roofs after the Dec. 3 blast. No life-threatening injuries were reported.