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Dow Chemical Leak Third From Tank Since 2008, Environmental Group Says

Jul 16, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Last week's  Dow Chemical leak in Hahnville, Louisiana was the third time the chemical ethyl acrylate was released from the St. Charles Operation facility since 2008, says the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. According to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, the environmental group has also demanded that Dow Chemical come clean about how much ethyl acrylate was released from the plant last week.

The Dow chemical spill occurred early last 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

According to the Times-Picayune, at a news conference yesterday, the  Louisiana Bucket Brigade cited two other ethyl acrylate leaks from the same tank that was involved in last week's incident.  The group said the company reported airborne releases of fumes from the chemical on Oct. 20, 2008, and April 22, 2009 to the state Department of Environmental Quality. 

According to the group, the October incident involved a 14-hour release of ethyl acrylate, which sent 168 pounds of the chemical into the air. The cause was determined to be multiple valve failures since the valves were not part of regular maintenance.  The  second  incident involved a two-hour release that sent  24.8 pounds of the chemical into the air.  Dow reported the release after a neighbor called and complained, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade said.

The group also complained that  the public does not yet know how much of the chemical was release last week. "Dow has tried to play down this release by calling it a bad odor," said Anna Hrybyk, the organization's program manager, said. "The fact is that it was a chemical release and we do not know how much of the chemical was released. We do know that people were treated at the hospital because of this accident and that Dow has a serious, ongoing problem with this chemical. It's not a simple odor."

According to a report on WWLTV, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade also charged that Dow Chemical was negligent because it did not "get to the root cause of the problem" with the tank involved in the three incidents.


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