St. Charles Herald-Guide

Dow leak was reported within mandated hour time frame

Kyle Barnett - August 15, 2013

Last Wednesday morning a hazardous chemical leak was reported at the Dow plant in Taft and workers were advised to shelter in place while the issue was handled by plant personnel.

According to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the leak of Acrolein, a highly flammable and poisonous gas, began at 8:24 a.m., but St. Charles Parish Spokeswoman Renee Simpson said the situation was not reported to the Emergency Operations Center until 51 minutes later at 9:15 a.m.

Dow officials said the leak was contained and never posed a threat to residents.

The DEQ later reported the leak was secured at 10:30 a.m. and an “all clear” was called at 11:24 a.m. with no offsite impact expected.

According to Louisiana State Police (LSP) spokeswoman Trooper Melissa Matey, Dow was within reporting requirements when they called in the leak.

“The LSP has a hazardous materials section. It is required by state law if there is any kind of chemical release they have to notify us,” she said.

Matey said DEQ regulations require the reporting of leaks of hazardous materials within one hour, which means Dow still had nine minutes to spare when they notified the EOC of the situation.

Emergency Coordinator Steve Sirmon said the Dow leak was a small incident such as others that occur on a regular basis in St. Charles Parish.

“It required no protective action or any activation from us,” he said. “On average we have an unusual event we deal with once every three days.”

As far as the reporting requirement is concerned, EOC Director Ron Perry said he thought Dow handled the situation well.

“This is just another unusual event that did not require offsite protective measures,” he said. “I think Dow exhibited an abundance of caution with this particular material. It was appreciated by us and I think everything went exactly as we expected it to go.”

Senior Emergency Coordinator Jason Tastet said since he has been working at the EOC he has never had an issue with a facility not reporting within the required timeline.

“In my 14 years of working here I’ve never had a reporting issue where I’ve thought it came too late with any fixed facility issue,” he said.  

Dow State Government Affairs Leader Tommy Faucheux said the chemical plant cooperated with all appropriate agencies throughout the ordeal.