This month, a fire and explosion at the Westlake Chemical Corp. Complex in Geismar resulted in an estimated 15 compounds being released over the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish. Only a few of those compounds, including hydrochloric acid, chlorine, vinyl chloride monomer exceeded the one-hour permit level set by the Department of Environmental Quality.
The cause of the fire is currently being investigated by the Westlake Chemical Corp., Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Louisiana State Police. The vinyl chloride monomer plant will likely be unable to open again until May.
There were no injuries, however the incident has prompted responses from environmental groups concerned about the potential harm from exposure to harsh chemicals and civil suits in state district court. PVC facilities, such as this Geismar facility, have been a concern for many years due to the carcinogenic properties of vinyl chloride, even in small quantities. One particular group, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, said “The March 22 fire at the facility is of grave concern to the community because of the toxicity of the particular chemicals released.”
A Westlake Corp. Spokesman, David Hansen, said that safety is not taken lightly by Westlake Corp. and the company takes pride in its safety record. Since buying the Geismar site nearly a decade ago, Westlake Corp. has spent millions of dollars on upgrades to the facility and for environmental and safety improvements. Currently, the entire Geismar Vinyls Complex is out of production.
Under several federal and state environmental regulations, corporations have a duty to cautiously handle, store, and dispose of dangerous toxins and the failure to do so can cause serious health consequences. Dangerous toxins can be negligently or intentionally released in water, air or the ground. Similarly, employers have a duty to provide safe working conditions for their employees. If you or a loved one has been exposed to chemicals or other dangerous toxins, either at the workplace or by a corporation’s release – you may be entitled to recover.
The attorneys at Broussard, David & Moroux have experience representing individuals injured by exposure to harmful toxins. For questions, please contact Broussard, David & Moroux at (888) 337-2323 (toll free) or (337) 233-2323 (local).