Iberville chlorine leak more dangerous than first thought; parish leaders lambaste plant owners over botched response
PLAQUEMINE - Months after a chlorine leak forced residents in part of Iberville Parish to briefly shelter inside their homes, parish leaders say the plant at the center of the mishap misrepresented how dangerous the leak truly was.
A public letter from Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso stopped short of accusing Olin of lying about the situation at its facility back in April but called it a "serious breach of public trust."
The statement says parish officials met with the Department of Environmental Quality in July to discuss the leak, where they discovered that Olin gave officials the go-ahead to lift their shelter-in-place order too early. The level of chemicals in the air on the night of the leak was said to be more dangerous than first reported.
The parish said Tuesday the shelter-in-place should have stayed in place for over 34 hours. Instead, the order was in place for roughly three hours.
"I was informed that the levels of chlorine at the time Olin advised that the 'shelter in place' could be lifted were not accurately reported to the parish and other emergency agencies on scene," Ourso said in a statement. "In fact, the chlorine levels in the monitoring area were higher than the level reported by Olin."
WBRZ learned that nearly two dozen people went to a hospital seeking treatment for chlorine exposure within a roughly 30-hour period following the leak.
"My throat burned for about 30 minutes. And then when I couldn't smell it anymore, my throat quit burning," one resident told WBRZ at the time.
The Department of Environmental Quality, not saying much about the investigation other than they are looking into the total amount that was released, as well as the duration of the event and the concentration of the chemical measured by monitors on the facility.
“That investigation is an active investigation and we really can’t talk too much about it," DEQ spokesperson Greg Langley said.
The WBRZ Investigative Unit also uncovered that the same plant was warned in the past for failing safety checks.
Read the full statement from Parish President Mitch Ourso here.
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