(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, December 21, 2013 6:08 PM
An explosion at Axiall’s plant in Westlake Friday afternoon caused a large fire that sent toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.
Twelve motorists were admitted to local hospitals for respiratory treatment. No fatalities or employee injuries were reported in the incident, said Sgt. James Anderson, state police Troop D spokesman.
“People drove through the product as the smoke was going through the interstate, and they are now at the hospital under observation,” Anderson said. “This is stuff you don’t want to breathe.”
Officials from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality arrived on the scene to check for toxic chemicals coming from the smoke. The department found “unknown amounts” of EDC dichloroethane, hydrochloric acid and vinyl chloride being released into the atmosphere, said Tim Beckstrom, DEQ’s spokesperson.
The explosion happened in the plant’s Number 2 furnace of its PHH unit shortly after 1:30 p.m., prompting state police to close both sides of Interstate 10. Axiall’s employees and contractors were evacuated from the plant as the company’s internal fire department responded to the blaze, extinguishing it within an hour.
The Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness issued a shelter in place shortly after 2 p.m. for Westlake residents, which was lifted less than an hour later,
Axiall officials issued an all clear notice at 2:50 p.m.
Patricia Prebula, Axiall’s spokesperson, said the company is unaware of any off-site impact. She added that the PHH unit, which holds vinyl chloride and hydrochloric acid, is located on the plant’s southwest corner.
Beckstrom said DEQ officials also conducted air monitor tests for acids and lower explosive limits. LEL’s are the lowest percentage of a gas or a vapor in the air capable of producing a flash of fire in the presence of an ignition source. He added that the tests are in their beginning stages and was unsure of when the results will be determined.
In a statement to the American Press, Alan Chapple, Axiall’s director of corporate communications and public relations, said the company’s “investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing.”
Posted By: Randy On: 12/23/2013
When I see this it reminds me of the LAIA ads that constantly appear within local media. Ironic how in a moment these local industries, that seem to be selling themselves as good neighbors, can release a cloud of toxic chemicals and for days afterward they state the incident is 'under investigation'.
What are effects of these chemical compounds when exposed to humans? What medical advice has been given to anyone that thinks they were exposed? Hydrochloric acid and vinyl chloride even SOUNDS dangerous but at least in this report there is no description of the dangers of either.
Posted By: janet paro On: 12/22/2013
OMG...."unsure if when the results willl be determined".....................are ya kidding? we CAN breathe the air---just dont 'inhale it", huh??????