Three refineries report accidents caused by Lee: Lack of storm preparedness an ongoing concern

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NEW ORLEANS – The oil industry’s lack of preparedness for rain and storms was evident over the Labor Day weekend, as five of the state’s 17 refineries reported accidents. Four of the accidents were specifically attributed to Tropical Storm Lee.


“Rain and storms are common in Louisiana," said Anne Rolfes, Founding Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “Citizens are prepared. Refineries should be, too.”

Below is information on these accidents. For chemicals spilled, none of the refineries provided quantities. 

Four accidents attributed to Lee:

ExxonMobil, East Baton Rouge Parish
Saturday, Sept. 3, 9:15 a.m.
Cause of accident: Overflow of a waste unit spilled oil in river
Explanation: Rain
Chemicals spilled: Unknown Oil

ExxonMobil, East Baton Rouge Parish
Saturday, Sept. 3, 9:15 a.m.
Cause of accident: Oil in Callahan Bayou
Explanation: Rain
Chemicals spilled: Unknown oil

Motiva Distribution Terminal, St. James Parish
Saturday, Sept. 3, 11:36 a.m.
Cause of accident: Sump pump overflowed
Explanation: Too much rain
Chemicals spilled: Oil, diesel

Conoco Phillips, Plaquemines Parish
Sunday, Sept. 4, 10 a.m.
Cause of accident: Running at low rates because of Tropical Storm Lee
Explanation: Sent gas to the flare
Chemicals spilled: Sulfur Dioxide

Three other accidents; Lee’s impact on these accidents remains unknown:

Motiva, St. Charles Parish
Friday, Sept. 2, 9:35 p.m.
Cause of accident: Equipment failure
Explanation: Mechanical malfunction
Chemicals spilled: Nitrogen Oxides and propylene

Conoco Phillips, Plaquemines Parish
Saturday, Sept. 3, 6:43 a.m.
Cause of accident: Equipment failure
Explanation: Sent gas to flare
Chemicals spilled: Sulfur Dioxide

Valero, St. Charles Parish
Sunday, Sept. 4, 12:25 a.m.
Cause of accident: Process unit
Explanation: No explanation
Chemicals spilled: Hydrogen Sulfide and sulfur dioxide

Such accidents are common. According to refinery reports from 2005-2010, weather was the cause of 27 percent of emissions to the air and 64 percent of emissions to the water.


“These accidents are preventable by creating better storm preparedness plans. Refineries also need to get capacity to handle a lot of rain,” Rolfes said. “We live in Louisiana, after all.”


These accidents from 2005-2010 have resulted in 5.8 million pounds of air pollution and 15 million gallons of liquid pollution. Toxic chemicals released during these accidents include 3.3 million gallons of oil, 2.2 million pounds of sulfur dioxide and more than 27,000 pounds of benzene.

Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization supporting neighborhoods’ use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable communities free from industrial pollution.

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