One person is dead and 77 others injured when a chemical plant exploded Thursday morning, officials said.
The explosion and fire occurred at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, LA at 8:37 a.m. Louisiana State Police said the fire was out by 11 a.m. Fire officials are still investigating the cause of the blast.
Zachary C. Green, 29, of Hammond, LA, died in the explosion. Louisiana State Police Haz-Mat team officials found him in the plant after they extinguished the fire.
Green was an operator at the plant and had worked there since last October, Williams officials said.
“We are grieving for the loss of Zack who was part of our Williams community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of sorrow. We also remain deeply concerned about Williams’ personnel and contractors who sustained injuries, some quite serious,” said Alan Armstrong, Williams’ president and chief executive.
“We are extremely appreciative of the prompt and efficient actions by local and state law enforcement and emergency responders for their assistance in this difficult time. We are focusing all necessary resources on assisting those impacted and determining the cause of the explosion.”
There were as many as 300 workers in the plant at the time of the explosion. Williams also stated it is cooperating with federal, state and local agencies in assessing the situation and determining the cause of the explosion. The extent of damage is unknown. A total of 26 people remain hospitalized.
Dr. Flip Roberts of the Baton Rouge General Medical Center Mid-City said the hospital treated 19 people after the blast. There are still four people hospitalized in BRG’s Burn Center.
One patient is in critical condition, one is in serious condition and the two others are in fair condition. Roberts added the next 48 to 72 hours will be important in determining what will be next for the critical patient.
Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center (OLOL) reported it received 12 patients in the trauma center. Two people were in critical condition, but one of those upgraded to fair Friday morning. One patient went to the OLOL freestanding emergency room in Walker, LA.
St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales received 36 patients, all in good or fair condition. The latest reports said 19 already went home.
In total, 51 people have been treated and released from emergency rooms.
According to OLOL and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, patients suffered exposure to the chemical Ethylene-Propylene-Maleic Anhydride Copolymers.
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police, said they accounted for every plant employee. There were 10 employees who stayed in an explosive-proof control center inside the plant. Their job is to shut down the plant during an emergency. The 10 men are now out of the safe room.
Officials ordered a 2-mile radius shelter-in-place following the explosion. Officials lifted the order later on that day, however, during a news conference at 1:45 p.m. Thursday, There were still four additional plants in the area still under shelter-in-place orders. Those plants were Honeywell, Univer, Innophos and PCS Nitrogen.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) pipeline division said Enterprise Products Operating said they have shut-in their pipelines that enter the plant.
State officials said the plant had gotten the OK for expansion and was in the middle of a turnaround.
According to Assistant Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary Cheryl Nolan, the plant is in the process of emergency flaring. There have been no detections above normal levels in the air, but DEQ is doing additional monitoring out of an abundance of caution. The results so far show no harmful effects.
According to DEQ, the release from the stack is residual propelyne, which is what’s generating the smoke.
Williams employs more than 4,500 people at this plant. Operations span from the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Oil Sands.
The Olefin team is responsible for the ethane transportation business consisting of about 200 miles of pipelines, as well as a refinery-grade propylene splitter.