Explosion at Georgia Gulf Plant - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Explosion at Georgia Gulf Plant

November 10, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck

It was shortly after 12:38 Saturday afternoon that officials at the Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness say a fire at the Georgia Gulf refinery in Westlake resulted in an explosion.   

"Georgia Gulf had an upset in one of their units, which resulted in a fire and then an explosion," said OEP Responder Robert Daughdril. 

We're told moments after the blast, heavy black smoke could be seen for miles. Authorities soon blocked off Old Spanish Trail leading to and from the plan entrance.

Georgia Gulf Plant Manager Will Henson tells 7 News the fire started at 12:38 p.m. in the plant's refrigeration unit, which uses propylene in the cooling process. That caused a small explosion. Daughdril says emergency responders had the fire under control by 12:55 p.m. 

"They're just now cooling things down and assessing the situation, trying to get everything under control and it will probably take some time to find out what exactly caused the leak or explosion," said Daughdril.  

According to State Police, hydrogen chloride acid was released on site. That prompted a temporary shelter in place for the Sasol plant next door. Air quality monitoring by DEQ and Georgia Gulf say there was no off-site impact. However, nearby residents beg to differ.

"I was detailing my truck and when I heard the alarms. I figured maybe there would be a shelter in place. I never heard a shelter in place so I finished my truck, parked it to the side. I went to Westlake picked up my wife's car, came back and I noticed this black soot all over my car after I finished it," said Westlake resident Jason Fruge.  

Fruge lives on East Dick Hayes Road, approximately 2 miles Northeast of the Georgia Gulf chemical plant.  He and neighbors describe the ashy soot as a thick oily black residue. Fruge is concerned it could be a potential health hazard. 

"What is actually on there, what are we breathing in this area. It's not just the looks of things, it's our health also," said Fruge.  

The black soot has been reported in Westlake and parts of Sulphur. We're told it is a by-product of the burning chemical. No word yet on if it is a hazard. Meanwhile no injuries have been reported, the all clear was given around 2:45 p.m. At this time, the incident remains under investigation.

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