Flooded Chem Plant Still on Edge

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 @ 05:09 PM gHale

An evacuation order remains in effect for residents living near the Stolthaven chemical plant in Braithwaite, LA, after waters from Hurricane Isaac flooded out the plant.

Flooding at the Stolthaven chemical plant pushed more than 100 rail cars off the track, some of which carried hazardous materials, said state police.

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Some tanks were also off their foundations; others carried chemicals that can become explosive if they exceed a certain temperature, a major concern because the plant lost power. Haz mat teams brought in chillers and inhibitors in order to curb any chemical reaction.

Commander Doug Cain, state police spokesman, said there is no immediate threat to the public and there is no evidence of any chemical release.

But the potential for a release remains, and that’s why an evacuation order remains in effect for those who live half a mile North or South of the plant. The order doesn’t impact Mississippi River traffic or the West Bank of Plaquemines Parish.

“We don’t believe there’s any cause for concern. Everything to this point has been successful. They’re making progress,” said Cain. “As long as the potential for off site impact exists, we have to err on the side of caution and keep the evacuation order in place.”

Still, attorney Dominick Impastato filed a class action lawsuit against Stolthaven Tuesday on behalf of residents suffering from the situation.

“There are people who have seen, who were there rescuing people in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac off of rooftops, who know they smelled something very horrible, saw chemicals on the water, and have serious concerns because of it,” said Impastato. “We want these homeowners made whole. We want to make sure that if there is any contamination out there, that it’s properly taken care of.”

The London-based company has not responded to the suit, filed in Plaquemines Parish.

The water receded a great deal in Braithwaite Sunday, with just a few inches on the road in Braithwaite Park, as opposed to several feet the day before. Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, said more of the company’s equipment is up and running now that water has receded. He said the results of surface water tests should be back later this week. And air quality samples have not revealed any dangerous levels of chemicals. They have not tested the soil yet because flood waters have not receded enough, Mallett said.

Mallett also said Stolthaven is working to control water runoff from inside the facility. A news release on the company’s website said, in part, “Prior to landfall of the hurricane the terminal was shut down according to the company’s existing emergency procedures to reduce the chance of damage to the terminal and possible resulting environmental impact.”

Stolthaven is a global provider of integrated transportation solutions for bulk liquid chemicals, edible oils, acids, and other specialty liquids.



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