Another Dow Chemical Leak Reported at Louisiana Plant, Problem Could Linger for DaysJul 10, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The Dow Chemical leak that occurred in Hahnville, Louisiana earlier this week could affect the area for days, plant officials are saying. According to a report on WDSU.com, the 640,000 gallon storage tank involved in the incident could intermittently leak ethyl acrylate while the cleanup is ongoing, filling the air with the chemical's characteristic putrid smell.
The injury count from Tuesday's leak at Dow Chemical's St. Charles Operations facility has now reached 33, with two people treated at the hospital yesterday. A second ethyl acrylate leak occurred in the same storage tank yesterday morning at around 6:30, and residents nearby complained about the nauseating smell throughout the day, WDSU.com said. Although most said the odor from the chemical wasn't nearly as bad as it had been on Tuesday, some did complain of feeling worse than they had when the original incident took place.
According to Dow Chemical officials, the second leak occurred when workers were attempting to neutralize the chemical and move it to sealed containers. Some small amount of ethyl acrylate was not neutralized, and made its way into the air. No one at Dow Chemical could say how long residents living in the area might have to deal with this problem, WDSU.com said.
The original leak occurred early Tuesday morning, and forced evacuation of the area around the Dow Chemical plant. Some residents were forced out of their homes until Wednesday afternoon. Because of winds and storms in the area, ethyl acrylate fumes were carried as far away as New Orleans, and St. Bernard's Parish.
Dozens of people were treated at the hospital for ethyl acrylate side effects. The foul-smelling chemical is known to cause nausea and headaches, and can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Anyone experiencing such symptoms has been advised to seek medical attention.
According to the New Orleans-Times Picayune, a malfunctioning vent on the 640,000 gallon tank apparently led to the initial release on Tuesday. Plant officials said an unrelated problem with that same tank was reported to the state in April. Neither Dow nor parish and state officials would say exactly how much ethyl acrylate escaped and became airborne, the Times-Picayune said.
The Times-Picayune also reported that some parties are continuing to raise questions about Dow Chemical's early response to Tuesday's leak, and the way residents were notified. St. Charles Parish's emergency preparedness director told the Times-Picayune that the first call about an odor came in Tuesday at 3:57 a.m., and the office immediately notified Dow.
The emergency alert level was raised at 7:10 a.m. when Dow let the Emergency Operations Center know the leak was not contained, and that people living in the area should take precautions. But according to the Times-Picayune report, some residents around the plant have complained that they were not notified that there was a leak for hours.