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Plant tied to Plaquemine chlorine leak had been cited for violations in the past

4 weeks 1 day 18 minutes ago Tuesday, April 19 2022 Apr 19, 2022 April 19, 2022 5:56 PM April 19, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

PLAQUEMINE - A chemical plant at the root of a late-night fire that prompted a shelter-in-place order for parts of Iberville Parish handed notices in the past for failing safety checks. 

Officials say low levels of the chemical leaked from the plant after a compressor inside the Olin facility exploded. According to the Department of Environmental Quality, chlorine is no longer being detected in the area.

"Our phones are what got our attention, because everyone's started ringing and everything," Brad Michelle said.

Michelle was one of many driving home Monday night after chlorine started leaking into the air. People were told to shelter in place for hours, turn off their AC, and close all doors and windows.

"I looked up at the street lights and you could see it all flying around. That yellow flaky looking stuff," said Lisa Michot, another resident of the area. 

This isn't the first time there has been trouble at the plant. The WBRZ Investigative Unit found the Olin site at the Dow plant released more than 3,000 lbs of chlorine into the air in 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency has cited Dow for a "high-priority" violation of the Clean Air Act. 

Chlorine is a yellow liquefied gas, meaning it turns into liquid at cooler temperatures. According to a safety data sheet, exposure to the gas can cause harmful effects, including death.

"My throat burned for about 30 minutes. And then when I couldn't smell it anymore, my throat quit burning," Michot said.

DEQ detected low levels until early Tuesday morning. Officials say they remained on the scene monitoring the chemicals. Workers at the Blanchard's Building Materials say they could still smell the chemical when they opened.

"I guess it was trapped in the building, it was super strong," Michelle said.

"We could smell it. It wasn't anything major, but our throats were burning," Plaquemine resident Dot Blanchard said.

Olin Corporation has a week to release to the DEQ more information about what caused the compressor to explode and how much chlorine was released into the air.

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