Isaac Aftermath: More Chem Plant Penalties

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 @ 06:10 PM gHale


A second notice of potential penalty to Stolthaven New Orleans LLC in Braithwaite, LA, is for unauthorized discharges from its chemical storage site during and after Hurricane Isaac in late August and early September, state officials said.

Stolthaven failed to take precautionary measures in anticipation of the hurricane, in violation of state law, allowing unauthorized releases into state waters, said officials at the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

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“… The written reports submitted detailing this incident did not specify or give mention to any measures taken prior to hurricane landfall to minimize the volume and duration of the unauthorized discharges.” Each unauthorized discharge into state waters is a separate violation, the notice said.

Stolthaven has 10 days to respond to the violation notice and provide an account of the company’s gross revenues. Additional enforcement actions, including penalties, could occur as an investigation into actions at the facility continue, state officials said.

DEQ issued a $12,189.61 penalty to Stolthaven Sept. 18 for failure to notify the agency of releases at the facility in a timely manner.

In a Sept. 18 letter to DEQ, Stolthaven officials said they remained unsure whether there were releases of a number of chemicals from a variety of storage tanks at the site, and if so, how much.

The company had earlier reported the release of two types of lubricating oil from tanks moved from their foundations. But the new report indicated additional tanks may have also dislodged. In some cases, damage to coverings of some tanks made it difficult or impossible to determine the amount of chemicals remaining inside. In other cases, the equipment used to estimate the amount of chemicals in the tanks before the storm was not available afterwards and other measurement methods came up with different amounts in several tanks.

The new report listed 28 chemicals or mixtures of chemicals and water as “potentially released.” The largest potential release was as much as 177,342 gallons of diethanolamine, a chemical used as a corrosion inhibitor and to remove hydrogen sulfide during petroleum refining. The chemical is a potential skin irritant.

“For actual losses, a yet-to-be-determined portion of the materials listed in Attachment 2 (the list of chemicals in tanks) may have been released into the facility’s storm water, some of which may have flowed off-site with the storm surge,” Stolthaven’s letter said. “Also, a yet-to-be-determined portion is being retained on-site.

“Efforts are currently underway to recover material retained onsite,” the letter said. “It is unknown at this time whether, or in what quantities, the materials listed above in Attachment 2 remain in the stormwater contained within each tank farm containment area.”

In the letter, Stolthaven officials said their efforts to prepare the facility in advance of the hurricane included moving some chemicals “into tanks holding less product in order to weigh down those tanks to prevent against tank movement due to storm surge.”

In a Sept. 13 news release, the company said “Terminal personnel shut down the facility and made preparations to prevent and/or reduce the likelihood of damage to the terminal and any environmental impact.”

In its notice of potential penalty, DEQ officials pointed out on Aug. 27, two days before Isaac’s landfall, the National Weather Service public advisory called for 6 to 12 feet of storm surge, “and on the same day the department contacted the respondent to determine if pre-hurricane procedures had been implemented and whether they needed any assistance from the department.

“The respondent indicated that pre-hurricane procedures were implemented and that no assistance from the department was needed,” the notice said.



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