A chlorine leak led to fireballs flaring Friday on the Dow Chemical property in Plaquemine, LA, forcing an evacuation of workers at the facility and a shelter-in-place order, officials said.
Officials were able to stop the leak just before 6 p.m. Friday, said Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi. Around 7 p.m., Stassi confirmed they lifted the shelter-in-place.
Stassi said the black clouds coming from the plant were not chlorine but the plant’s turbine failure resulted in hydrocarbon burning at the plant.
The fireball that released from the plant was actually a flare that occurs normally during shutdowns, officials said.
Around 7:15 p.m., Stassi confirmed the situation at the site has been contained and there is no detectable smell of chlorine.
Dow Chemical released the following statement:
“Friday afternoon, Dow’s facility in Plaquemine experienced a power interruption causing a loss of electrical power and steam to the manufacturing site. All employees were accounted for and there were no reported injuries on site. Three Dow employees went to our on-site Health Services and are under observation. We have been informed that 16 contract employees drove themselves to local hospitals, at this time all have been discharged. The chlorine leak reported by Olin Corporation, a third party tenant on site, has been stopped. The community shelter-in-place has been lifted and all lanes on LA 1 are open. Safety on site and in our community is and continues to be our number one priority and we continue to work closely with our local agencies.”
Officials said 16 non-essential employees from the facility drove themselves to area hospitals. Dow spokesperson Stacey Chiasson said she did not know what medical complaints those people had.
Non-essential employees evacuated from the plant as soon as the incident started, around 3 p.m. Friday. Chiasson said all other employees at the Dow site have been accounted for and none of them sustained injuries.
The incident happened when the facility lost power, Chiasson said. She said Olin Corporation, a tenant on the DOW site which produces chlorine, experienced a small chlorine leak. Power ended up to the facility around 5:15 p.m.
Stassi said emergency sirens in the area were not activated because no evacuations ended up ordered. He said phone calls went out using the 911 system to residents who needed to stay indoors.
The Dow plant had an increase in flaring due to maintenance for several weeks prior to this incident and officials urged people not to be alarmed by the large flames coming from the flares.
The Dow Chemical Plant is one of the largest in the Plaquemine Parish area and one of the biggest petrochemical facilities in the state. The plant employs 3,000 people who produce 50 products, including chlorine and polyurethane, according to the Dow’s web-site.