A thunderstorm yesterday, July 7, 2012, evening led to an unusually large flare at the Dow Chemical Plant in Plaquemine, LA. Marylee Orr, executive Director of LEAN, contacted the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality(LDEQ) regarding the incident and LDEQ was quick to respond with information they had received from the plant. Lighting from a storm had hit two units causing the power generation reactor to shut down. The flaring, from the light hydrocarbon unit, was expected to last for approximately 8 hours until enough steam built up in the system to re-energize the plant. Dow had reported no injuries or releases at that time. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has continued to monitor the situation and reported the flare was reduced by approximately 80% as of 6am this morning and was expected to be completely out by 6am tomorrow morning.
"We see this all too often. So often that I am afraid the communities around these facilities see it as normal. There is almost an expectation to see Dow flaring whenever there is bad weather; it's just business as usual." says Marylee Orr.
Dow operates a large facility covering approximately 1,500 acres on the west bank of the Mississippi River. The plant produces products such as chlorine and polyethylene and handles enormous quantities of potentially hazardous materials. In many industrial plants, "flaring" is used to burn off materials that can not be properly utilized due to an incident or malfunction within some part of the facility. The flaring prevents dangerous over pressurization within the facility but can also emit huge amounts of volatile organic compunds and air pollutants. Start-up and shut down operations often produce very large flaring events. These flares represent an enormous waste of material and energy for the facility and pose a significant threat to the health of the environment and local community. Operational strategies that eliminate flaring can reduce the facilities loss of thousands of pounds of valuable material and most importantly protect the surrounding environment and community.
Residents must participate to safeguard their community and contacting DEQ whenever they see an incident or cause for concern is the best way to assure that the appropriate response is taken.
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality
To report environmental concerns between 8am and 4:30pm Monday through Friday dial (225) 219-3640
To report a concern outside of business hours dial (225) 342-1234
or toll free 1-888-763-5424
Incidents can also be reported online at http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/apps/forms/irf/forms/