Monday, March 27, 2023

Westlake, LA Chlorine Leak Causes I-10 Diversion

Three local news articles (here, here, and here) about a chlorine gas leak at a pool chemical manufacturing facility in Westlake, LA that lead to local shelter in place warnings and a diversion of traffic on nearby Interstate 10. No injuries have been reported. The leak apparently occurred in a chlorine gas pipeline coming into the plant. The cause of the leak has not been reported.

A post-hurricane chlorine leak and fire at the facility almost three years ago is still under investigation by the Chemical Safety Board.

While this leak was probably (still have not heard a number for the amount of chlorine released) reportable under various EPA regulations, this incident does not appear to rise to a level that would require reporting to the chemical Safety Board under 40 CF 1604. With no serious injuries reported and no reported damage to the facility, this would not be a reportable release from the CSB’s point of view.

This type of incident calls into question the regulations reliance on ‘property damage’ as an assessment of the degree of hazard associated with a release. While there may have been some damage to the pipeline (do not know yet) that resulted in the release it is unlikely to have risen to $1-million standard for ‘substantial property damage’, there were other damages incurred both at the facility and in the surrounding community that could have risen above that target value. According to the news articles, the shelter-in-place order affected production at at least one other chemical facility and impacted homes and businesses within 1-mile of the facility. Additionally, the diversion of traffic on a major interstate (not to mention local roads in the shelter-in-place area) would have imposed some additional costs on those vehicles diverted, a minimal time and fuel cost on an individual basis, but in aggregate that could be a substantial number.

These outside costs incidental to the release would be hard for the facility owner to know in advance or calculate on the fly. If I were crafting the authority for the CSB rule today, I would require them to include a standard for off-site effects from a release beyond serious injuries or substantial property damage that take into account the size of a shelter-in-place, or evacuation order or the number of people affected by such orders.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a good perspective to provide during the open comments on the accidental release reporting at ->

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