Five people were injured in an explosion at a Westlake Chemical plant in Port Charles, Louisiana yesterday. Two remain hospitalized.
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A five-member contract crew was performing maintenance at Westlake Chemical’s Petro Complex 2 Unit when the blast occurred around 11 p.m. The facility, located on Highway 108, makes ethylene.
All five crewmembers were transported to area hospitals. Three were released today, two are still receiving care.
Authorities don’t yet not what caused the explosion. An investigation is underway.
Westlake Chemical Corp. of Houston makes petrochemicals, polymers, and building products. In 2016, Westlake acquired Atlanta-based Axiall Corp., a chlorovinyls manufacturer with 47 locations in Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee, and Texas. The merger created the third-largest chlor-alkali producer and the second-largest polyvinyl chloride (PVC) producer in North America, according to a press release issued at the time.
On December 20, 2013, an explosion and fire at the vinyl chloride manufacturing area of the company’s Lake Charles chemicals complex prompted an evacuation of the facility, a temporary closure of I-10, and a shelter-in-place order for the area. Axiall said the explosion released unknown amounts of EDC Dichloroethane, Hydrochloric acid, and vinyl chloride.
Enormous plumes of toxic, black smoke billowed from the plant and hung in the air for about an hour. No employees were injured in the explosion but 18 people who were in the area at the time of the explosion were treated for respiratory issues at local hospitals.
According to a KATC investigation, Axiall had a history of chemical spills and environmental violations before the 2013 explosion. In September 2013, just months before the blast, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality fined the company $400,000 for the violations. A settlement stipulated that the company install a leak detection system. But in the three months between the fine and the explosion, three more leaks occurred.
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