BioLab to build back better, stronger than before

Rita LeBleu

Gov. John Bel Edwards and KIK Consumer Products COO Jeff Schmitt announced Wednesday that BioLab will invest $170 million to build its new chlorine products facility in Westlake, good news for Southwest Louisiana and pool owners everywhere. The announcement was marked with a groundbreaking ceremony. 

The new plant will be constructed on the site of the previous plant, which was destroyed by a fire after Hurricane Laura hit the area on Aug. 27, 2020. 

BioLab is a leading company in the recreational water treatment industry, and it is a top supplier of pool and spa treatment products in North America and international markets. The plant’s destruction triggered the pool products shortage that’s been making headlines this summer, according to Jonathan Viner, Pool President.

“This celebration speaks to the resiliency of this community,” Edwards said. “This facility has been here since 1979, an indication of its importance to the area, and then there is its impact on everyday customers across the country.”

Edwards said at his home one of his jobs is to bring home the pool chemicals for his family, and he has noticed how BioLab’s shutdown has impacted the cost and availability of those chemicals. 

BioLab is not only coming back, it’s coming back stronger and better, the governor said. Production will be increased by at least 30 percent. Around 80 jobs will be restored and a few more added. The indirect job expectation is 231. 

Don Brunett, plant manager, said, “It’s personal for me. What I’m looking for most, what this groundbreaking signifies to me, is putting people back to work.”

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Chuck Carr Brown said the way the plan is rebuilding speaks to future resiliency. BioLab is required to build to withstand 140 mph winds. It’s building to sustain 170 mph winds and at 10 feet above storm surge/flooding requirements. Part of the rebuild also includes a ride-out shelter. 

“Today we’re focused firmly on the future of this facility and reinvestment in this region,” Schmitt said. “However, as we begin this new phase of growth of our company, I think it’s important to take a look back at what brought us to this point.”          

BioLab was directly in the path of Laura’s 150 mph-plus winds. Damage to the facility resulted in a fire that completely destroyed the plant. 

“The fact that we’re here today ready to begin rebuilding is a credit to the BioLab team here with us. For anyone in any manufacturing industry, this is the level of disaster that you plan for but pray never happens. But if it does, you want your team to respond exactly the way ours did. They worked while many of their homes were destroyed and their families were evacuated outside the area.”

The new facility will produce trichloroisocyanuric acid, also referred to as tri-chlor or TCCA, a chlorine-based sanitizer that kills microorganisms, including bacteria. It prevents algae growth, keeps water clean and protects pool equipment. 

Brown and Root is general contractor and Recon Group is the engineering firm for the project, according to Stephen Jackson, BioLab CFO. 

The project is expected to be complete by spring 2022. 

            ””

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Jonathan Viner, Pool President of BioLab, talk before the BioLab groundbreaking ceremony in Westlake.

Rita LeBleu

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