50 set to sue Dow

Some still feeling effects of leaked fumes

Fifty residents that say they were exposed to ethyl acrylate fumes after a leak at Dow have retained the legal services of New Orleans attorney Frank D’Amico, Jr.

According to D’Amico, some of those residents are still experiencing symptoms from the exposure including headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Others have reported sinus problems and skin irritation. D’Amico said that he hasn’t decided whether or not to file a class action lawsuit because it may be in his clients’ best interest to file consolidated actions in state court.

“That’s something I will need to discuss with them first before we make a final determination,” he said.

The July 7 leak of ethyl acrylate, which is a chemical used in the manufacturing of a wide variety of household cleaning products, caused a strong lingering smell over much of the parish and sent several residents to the hospital complaining of throat and nose irritation. According to environmental watchdog group the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, there have been four such leaks at Dow since October 2008.

“Reports that this tank has been leaking in the past causes us to believe this was an ongoing maintenance problem,” D’Amico said. “If that is the case, then Dow should have been more vigilant in its maintenance of the tank.”

D’Amico said that he has also heard conflicting reports of when the leak was reported to both the public and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

“I don’t know if an alarm sounded or if any specific instructions were given to the community via a hazardous release plan,” he said. “Was the public told to shelter in place or were they told to evacuate? These are all pressing issues and these questions will have to be answered.”

D’Amico said that issues of general maintenance of the tank and whether an emergency plan was followed must be decided before anything conclusive can be stated about Dow’s possible negligence.

“However, logic would dictate that this sort of major structure failure should not have occurred, and that Dow’s safety and maintenance program must not have worked – if it was in fact followed at all,” D’Amico said. “Otherwise, this would not have happened.”

Dow, parish and DEQ officials have continually stated that all air sample readings taken after the leak were well below the federal exposure standard for the chemical.

 

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