WWL4 (NOLA): Plant admits to release of more chemicals in Braithwaite than originally thoughtSeptember 13th, 2012
BRAITHWAITE, La. - On Thursday, Stolthaven chemical holding and transfer facility in Plaquemines Parish admitted to releasing more chemicals during Hurricane Isaac than initially thought.
A report by Stolthaven to the National Response Center admits to releasing over 191,000 gallons of benzene, styrene, toluene and other chemicals into flood waters that entered Braithwaite, according to the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
Stolthaven facility had flooding of 10 to14 feet during Isaac, causing "damages & leaks to some of the storage tanks," the report said.
Flooding at the Stolthaven facility pushed more than 100 rail cars off the track, some of which carried hazardous materials, said state police . Some tanks were also knocked off their foundations; others carried chemicals that can become explosive if they exceed a certain temperature, a major concern because the plant lost power.
Officials with the Stolthaven chemical and transfer facility admit there was a leak after the storm surge inundated the facility.
“We had one tank of octene that was compromised and one tank of base oil. Both of these were in our containment systems and fully boomed off once our spill response contractor arrived on scene,” said Steve Turchi, regional director of the North America Stolthaven Terminals.
The report shows more than 177,000 of 191,000 gallons of the chemicals released was ethylene glycol. According to the EPA, ethylene glycol is used as an antifreeze in hydraulic brake fluids, as a solvent in paint and plastics and to de-ice planes.
The report cites Hurricane Isaac as the reason for the problem with a storage tank, according to the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
Such tanks are notoriously unmaintained and in poor condition, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade said. “Stolthaven failed to prepare and our state Department of Environmental Quality failed to make them do so,” said Anne Rolfes, the founding director.
As of Tuesday, residents of Braithwaite Park are only being allowed back to their homes a couple of hours a day.
Attorney Dominick Impastato filed a class action lawsuit against Stolthaven Tuesday on behalf of residents impacted by the situation.
"There are people who have seen, who were there rescuing people in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac off of rooftops, who know what they smelled something very horrible, saw chemicals on the water, and have serious concerns because of it," said Impastato.
The London-based company has not responded to the suit, which was filed in Plaquemines Parish.
Long before the hurricane, Stolthaven was fined $97,000 by DEQ for a leaking tank in 2008 and for not having a proper spill containment plan or system for some of their tanks.