Investigation into chlorine leak at Olin plant leads to questions regarding safety
IBERVILLE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - In a letter recently sent to residents of north Plaquemine and surrounding areas, Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso claims leaders with the Olin plant did not provide accurate data regarding their chlorine leak back in April and, therefore, made things sound less severe than they actually were.
“My trust with this particular company just went down probably about 90%,” said Ourso.
On the day of the leak at Olin, back in April, people living near the plant were ordered around 9 p.m. to take shelter inside their homes. Three hours later, at midnight, the parish president says that Olin, based on its own air monitoring, gave the all-clear and told parish leaders it was safe to lift that ‘shelter in place.’
In his letter to residents, Ourso says he recently met with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), as well as Louisiana State Police, and was told the chlorine levels being provided by Olin that night “were not accurately reported” and were too low.
He says DEQ told him the ‘shelter in place’ should have lasted much longer, for nearly 34 hours. Nearly 30 people went to hospitals that night, complaining about chlorine-related injuries.
In his letter, Ourso says, “I will not tolerate reporting of inaccurate information by Olin during an emergency.”
Ourso later told WAFB, “We rely on the reports from the professionals in that chlorine unit to report back to us at the command center over there at that facility, and then relay that back to our OEP office to keep the public informed.”
However, there’s still one big question. Besides Olin, the state says three other entities were also doing air monitoring around the plant that night, including DEQ, LSP, and EPA.
So, WAFB wanted to know, if that’s the case, were those agencies showing different or more dangerous levels of chlorine in the air? If so, did anyone from any of those agencies object that night to the ‘shelter in place’ being lifted so soon?
WAFB asked LSP those questions on Tuesday, Aug. 9. They referred WAFB to DEQ, saying DEQ is taking the lead on what is still an ongoing investigation.
DEQ sent WAFB the following statement:
However, citing their ongoing investigation, DEQ would not tell WAFB whether they made any objections that night to the ‘shelter in place’ being lifted, or if they shared their own air readings with the parish leaders that night.
Both Parish President Ourso and his head of emergency preparedness told WAFB that they were not provided readings from DEQ, LSP, or EPA, only from Olin.
Olin did not return numerous emails from WAFB.
“You know, I also felt that it is also my responsibility to that I have to protect the public, the health, and welfare. I can only do that with the correct information that is sent to me, and that information was flawed according to our meeting. I am very very perturbed about it, and that should have never happened,” added Ourso.
Parish President Ourso says if the state investigation determines Olin did indeed falsify their numbers, he wants DEQ to “impose any penalty that may be appropriate.”
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