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The chlorine leak was worse than initially thought and there is question why Olin did not come clean. Now a DA is investigating.

Amid revelations that a chlorine leak near Plaquemine was worse than local leaders were initially told, the local district attorney says he’s consulting with state regulators and will hired a specialist attorney to see if any rules were broken.  Iberville Parish DA Tony Clayton says he has a “serious issue” with what the leadership of Olin Chemical told — and possibly didn’t tell — the public about the dangerous situation. But he says he is still in the early stages of deciding if a criminal inquiry is necessary. The April 18 leak from the Olin facility, located within Dow’s massive complex, led state and local officials to shut down roads and urge people in about 6,400 households to stay indoors. That order was lifted after three hours. But those leaders didn’t know about Dow air monitors near Plaquemine that continued to show elevated chlorine levels even after the stay-at-home order was lifted, recently released documents show. And some of the monitors were moved upwind after the order was lifted, leaving a gap in information about how much chlorine was in the community. Those reports from the state Department of Environmental Quality criticized the decision to move one of those monitors, but did not conclude whether the misreporting was intentional.

Olin has been accused of breaching the public trust.

Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso has accused Olin’s leadership of a “breach of public trust” in its reporting of the air readings, saying parish leaders would have kept people indoors longer if they had known about the monitoring data. Clayton, the top prosecutor in the 18th Judicial District, said he needs more information from the state and advice from a lawyer with expertise in environmental law before he can determine if a criminal probe is required. “If anyone on his staff has given out false information as to the readings that emanated from that place, then he has to answer to the people of this parish, period,” Clayton said, speaking of the Olin plant’s local manager. The incident, which sent at least 39 people to area hospitals with mostly mild symptoms, has already triggered civil lawsuits. They are seeking class-action status.  Clayton said he is waiting to hear from Dr. Chuck Carr Brown, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality, about the reported air readings. Clayton said he also plans to hire Tim Hardy, a leading environmental lawyer, who works with Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson LLP, for legal advice.

Hardy has worked with the Parish and State before and comes well recommended.

Hardy has previously worked as the top environmental advisor for former Gov. Buddy Roemer and as an assistant secretary in Roemer’s DEQ. Hardy also had two stints in the state Attorney General’s Office in the 1980s and early 1990s, including in the environmental enforcement section, according to published career biographies. Like Ourso, Clayton is focused on Olin and its subsidiary in Plaquemine, Blue Cube Operations LLC. DEQ reports and emails specifically identify both Dow and Olin environmental staff in the underreporting claims, however. Clayton said he has spoken with Dow’s leadership staff several times and has “no interest in Dow.” “It’s not Dow’s issue. I wish Olin would consult with Dow, and I wish Dow could go in and tell these folks if you are going to operate in our parish, you’re going to have to keep the people of this parish abreast of what the hell’s going on inside those plants,” Clayton said. “If you put these chemicals … on our people, then we have a right to know. I mean who in the world are you? We have a right to know.”

Dow just provides the space as Blue Cube has taken over for their operations.

Blue Cube took over portions of Dow huge chemical complex north of Plaquemine. As Dow’s tenant, the Olin subsidiary had an agreement with Dow that Dow would provide environmental monitoring in an emergency until Blue Cube could find its own third-party monitoring or declare an event is over, Dow and DEQ officials have said. Dow has said it shared air monitoring data with DEQ and has answered the agency’s questions. Olin says it provided accurate information at the time. Dow and Olin didn’t respond by deadline Wednesday to requests for additional comment. Clayton said he needs to figure out if the public was misled during the Olin leak and, if so, why and also if those actions harmed the public. “Without saying a whole lot, I just think we’ve got to find out what in the world was going on over there. Misleading the public is a no-no,” he said.

The problem with tenants who misbehave. I wonder if anything will coke with this probe since the State loves the oil and chemical companies.

Hide a leak and the DA takes notice
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