Parts of Southwest Louisiana were under a shelter-in-place order around the BioLab facility in Westlake, Louisiana, after a chemical reaction went bad last week.

The Calcasieu Office of Homeland Security issued a precautionary shelter-in-place July 2 at 8:30 a.m. for the area around BioLab. Officials said it was due to a chemical incident causing billowing smoke from a warehouse at the facility.

“It was from the residual of their products and normal products that they produce for chlorine, tablet stuff for pool supplies. So, it was a combination of that and some pallets stored in that area,” said Jared Maze, Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness director in a KPLC report.

The shelter-in-place first extended a quarter-mile around the plant and later expanded to a half-mile radius. People in the area learned about the incident in various forms from phone alerts by OHSEP, law enforcement, and the media.

While initial information is sometimes inexact, Maze said it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

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“When in doubt, always shelter-in-place until you get further information from the media or from us as a precautionary measure to protect yourself,” Maze said.

Residents appreciated that advice since they lived so close to the chemical manufacturing facility.

“I was glad we heard about it and I’m glad it was nothing serious, but I have to trust that the industries are always going to inform us and all the officials are going to do the right thing and get the word out there,” Karen Boudreaux of Westlake said in the KPLC report.

While some may have caught wind of a distinct smell, Maze says that doesn’t necessarily indicate a harmful amount of chemicals in the air.

“There was a combination of smoke and a chlorine smell off-site. No large impact to the area,” Maze said.

Plant monitors reported non-detect chlorine readings, indicating that chlorine levels are within safe limits, according to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

There were no injuries in the incident. An investigation into the cause of the incident is underway.

In a statement, BioLab said:

“BioLab can confirm it has now fully contained the smoke previously emanating from its facility and expects to resume operations at its facility in short order. We are grateful to our employees onsite, who are all accounted for with no injuries reported. We also want to thank the first responders and local authorities for their collaboration in swiftly bringing this incident under control. As always, the safety and well-being of our community in Lake Charles remain our top priority.”


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