Report examines chemical releases stemming from Hurricane Ida

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 7:00 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The report is by Coming Clean, a collaboration of environmental health and justice groups and their concerns about environmental disasters in this era of climate change.

The report focuses on incident reports related to Hurricane Ida - three facilities where they say chemical releases occurred.

The report concludes industry is, in some cases, unprepared for disasters.

Technical advisor Wilma Subra says a lot more attention needs to be given to prevention - for example, to keep flares from blowing out.

“The kinds of things that would avoid any impact as a result of the hurricane,” Subra said. “A lot of the flares were lit, and as soon as the winds started up, it blew out the flare. So, whatever was being flared was just being released straight into the air.”

Subra says Southwest Louisiana has the same type of facilities and others as seen during Hurricane Laura - though, no injuries were reported.

Subra says industries need better risk management.

“This report looks at what chemicals they were releasing, how much they were releasing, how far offsite it went, so that the community can be notified and take action if they decide they don’t want to be in the area while the emissions are being released. They can find somewhere else to go,” Subra said.

“They need to have backup situations to avoid the kind of damage we saw as a result of Hurricane Ida. In most cases it can be cleaned up. Most of the chemicals were volatiles so they were released into the air. In some cases, it was crude oil and the tank that got dispersed everywhere. That will take forever to clean up,” she said.

Lake Area Industry Alliance spokesman Jim Rock had this response.

“Each facility has extensive hurricane procedures that are followed and begin months before hurricane season even begins. These procedures are designed to protect the employees and the communities in which they live,” Rock said. “In 2020, Hurricane Laura provided the toughest test the industries had ever experienced given that it was the strongest storm to hit the state since the 1800′s and the plants have only been in SWLA since the 1940′s. Most plants sustained only minor damage, primarily to insulation, cooling towers and buildings constructed of sheet metal.”

“Procedures are reviewed annually and evolve with every experience to be more protective of the community in which they reside,” Rock said. “LAIA members share best practices continually to ensure that those best practices are incorporated into each facility.”

Rock explains why industrial facilities have located in Southwest Louisiana.

“Access to a deep-water channel for transportation of raw materials and manufacturing equipment to the facilities as well as capability of reaching customers on a global platform; Access to rail for shipment of raw material and finished product; Abundant pipelines for shipment of raw material and finished product and a well-trained workforce thanks to educational opportunities from McNeese State University and SOWELA and the ABC Trade School,” Rock said.

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