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Officials Investigate Westlake Chlorine Plant Fire As Air Quality Monitoring Continues

Cajun Navy
A video posted by the Cajun Navy shows smoke from a fire burning at BioLab Inc. in Westlake on Aug. 27, 2020.

A fire at BioLab Inc. chlorine plant in Westlake, La., caused by damage from Hurricane Laura was extinguished Saturday, and officials continue to assess the damage.

Officials with the Westlake Police Department said a shelter-in-place order for the area surrounding the plant has been lifted.

Greg Langley with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) said officials are monitoring for pollution and continue to take water and air samples near the plant. They’ve reported very low levels of detection since the fire broke out Thursday. None of the detections would reach the threshold to evacuate.

“We don't anticipate detecting much because everything is at a standstill over there,” he said. “It’s very hot and there’s no electricity and no water.”

Langley said the state’s air monitoring system in southwest Louisiana has been shut down because of lack of electricity, but noted that all of the plants and refineries in the area were shut down before the storm, so he suspects air pollution to be minimal.

A structural engineer will start inspecting the burned buildings tomorrow.

The state has requested help from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up and manage streams of waste, such as dangerous household items like gasoline and cleaning products, as well as digital waste, like televisions and computers.

Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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