Local first responders want review of Axiall incident - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Local first responders want review of Axiall incident


It's been a month since that massive fire at Axiall's Westlake chemical plant. The incident remains under investigation, but local first responders still have a lot of questions.

The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) would like to sit down with Axiall officials to talk about lessons learned from the December 20, 2013 incident.

"I think it is appropriate to have a review of the Axiall event because it impacted so many people so quickly," said Charlie Atherton, LEPC member.

The fire started in a unit that deals with hydrochloric acid and vinyl chloride and produced a huge plume of smoke that prompted a shelter in place for surrounding areas.

The Department of Environmental Quality did not find any evidence of offsite contamination, however, at least 18 people were treated at local hospitals for smoke inhalation. Calcasieu OEP Director Dick Gremillion said the review is routine.

"We ask the company to come tell us about what procedures were followed and any kind of unusual adventures that may have occurred and then more importantly how can we address this for the future," said Gremillion.

During the fire, Interstate-10 was temporarily shut down. According to Gremillion, it highlighted an issue they already knew they needed to address.

"With an increase in population and more traffic expected, it's not just a stretch of the imagination that we are going to have more issues on I-10, I-210 and the interconnecting roads - that connect to those roads," said Gremillion.

However, Gremillion said the biggest issue is the information gap. With everyone connected to social media, he said the information doesn't always go through the formal chain of command.

"A lot of times, pictures or statements or information will get out ahead of the official information. We are struggling how to resolve that issue. That's really our major issue we are dealing with right now," said Gremillion.

The LEPC wants to meet with Axiall. They said they'll be sending them a letter inviting them to the review. Gremillion stressed this is routine after an incident and said they rarely have a problem with local industry cooperating.

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