Posted: Jul 9, 2012 5:37 PM by AP
GEISMAR, La. (AP) - A Houston-based chemical company contends that it should not be penalized for a March plant fire at its vinyl chloride complex in Geismar because an unexpected and unprecedented chemical chain reaction touched off the blaze.
The Westlake Chemical Corp. recently released details about the March 22 incident in a 14-page letter to environmental regulators, according to the Advocate (http://bit.ly/MdVDbw ). In the letter, Andrew Kenner, vice president of Westlake's manufacturing division, says the reaction was not the result of operator error and could not have been anticipated.
The company is asking the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality not to penalize it.
Kenner's letter says the fire involved a far smaller chemical release than initially reported, primarily steam. A separate fire continued past 8:20 a.m. in an ethylene line.
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality officials said the fire remains under investigation. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into the incident too.
The blaze shot a plume of smoke high into the air over Westlake's Geismar Vinyls Complex off La. 30 in Ascension Parish.
The fire forced residents to stay inside their homes for a few hours and temporarily closed the Mississippi River and highways. The facility was shut down for a month and a half.