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Explosion at Marathon Petroleum plant in St. John Parish, officials say; 1 injury reported

DSC_9164.jpg
Halle Parker
/
WWNO
Marathon Petroleum refinery in Garyville, Louisiana.

One worker was injured in an explosion at Marathon Petroleum's Garyville Refinery on Monday morning in St. John the Baptist Parish, and the cause is still under investigation.

The blast - that could be felt miles away in neighboring parishes - sparked a fire that started at about 9:20 a.m., according to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Press Secretary Greg Langley. A portion of the refinery was under a shelter-in-place order.

The facility's firefighters were the first to respond, and the flames were under control within a few hours.

Jamal Kheiry, a spokesperson for Marathon Petroleum, said the contract worker was "being evaluated at a local healthcare facility as a precaution." All other employees were accounted for, he said.

"The safety of responders, employees, contractors, and the community are our top priority," said Kheiry.

Marathon Petroleum started conducting air monitoring that morning at the plant's fenceline. LDEQ's emergency response staff are also conducting community air monitoring with handheld monitors in four teams.

"No off-site monitoring has resulted in any reading above background levels," Langley said.

At the time of the explosions, the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office shut down a stretch of West Airline Drive near the intersection of Marathon Avenue for just over an hour before Sheriff Mike Tegre gave the all clear, according to multiple reports.

St. John Sheriff Mike Tegre and Parish President Jaclyn Hotard told outlets that there were no offsite impacts.

Laplace resident C.J. Boyle said she was working from home when her house started to shake at about 9 a.m.

“It felt like something literally hit my house,” she said Monday morning. “I knew it was an explosion right away, but I didn't know how far away it would have been."

This was the first time she’d felt such an explosion, and wondered if a plane had crashed nearby. She wouldn’t have guessed it came from the refinery.

Officials didn't advise residents to leave the area, and Boyle said she plans to stay in place.

Located in the River Parishes in a stretch of industrial area dubbed "Cancer Alley," the Garyville refinery has a crude oil refining capacity of 578,000 barrels per day. The Louisiana facility is also one of the largest refineries in the country.

This is a developing story. Check back with WWNO for updates.

Halle Parker reports on the environment for WWNO's Coastal Desk. You can reach her at hparker@wwno.org.

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