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3 workers injured in chlorine leak at La. plant

The plant near Plaquemine experienced an unintended reaction in a sulfuric acid tank led to the venting of the toxic vapors


By David Mitchell
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

PLAQUEMINE, La. — Three contractors inhaled hazardous chlorine gas and were treated at a hospital early Saturday after a leak at the Shintech polyvinyl chloride complex in Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes, a federal emergency database shows.

No one was seriously injured, and the workers are now back on the job, a Shintech official said.

The plant near Plaquemine was starting back up after a maintenance outage when an unintended reaction in a sulfuric acid tank led to the venting of the toxic vapors about 3:30 a.m. , according to a brief summary report to the U.S. National Response Center.

A heavier-than-air gas, chlorine is considered dangerous because it can travel along the ground.

In a statement Wednesday, a Shintech official said the leak was quickly stopped and contained on site. Shintech told the National Response Center that the release did not spark a fire or require highway closures or evacuations.

” Shintech’s primary focus is the safety and security of its employees, the community and the environment in which we operate,” Danny Cedotal , vice president of manufacturing at Shintech , said in a statement responding to questions about the NRC report. “No offsite impacts resulted from the incident.”

Shintech told the National Response Center that an estimated 112 pounds of chlorine were released.

The affected workers were taken to the hospital by ambulance, treated and released, according to Shintech .

Exposure to chlorine gas can cause coughing, difficulty breathing and, in the worst instances, lung damage, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . The gas can also irritate or burn the eyes, nose and skin.

The CDC says only the most seriously exposed suffer permanent lung damage and that recovery from most acute exposures is complete within a week or two.

The leak occurred in the chlor-alkali unit, which uses electricity to split salt molecules to make chlorine and caustic soda, two building block materials in the chemical and plastics industries.

After the leak, Shintech shut the chlor-alkali unit, Cedotal said, “for assessment and repair and expects to restart it soon.”

Local and state officials in charge of emergency response weren’t immediately available for comment Wednesday or were checking for information about the incident.

The leak and injuries had not been previously reported to the public by local authorities or Shintech . The company made its report to the federal center about 6:53 p.m. Saturday .

Times-Picayune reporter Mark Schleifstein contributed to this report.


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