A chemical fire is burning at BioLab Inc. in Westlake, Louisiana, in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.
The plant complex makes chlorine for swimming pools. Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) Press Secretary Greg Langley confirmed the location of the fire for New Orleans Public Radio.
LDEQ was informed of the fire and possible release of chlorine gas at 9 a.m., Langley said. LDEQ responders are there and have begun monitoring the air quality. The team’s initial readings did not detect any chlorine, but the team will continue to monitor the air at strategic locations.
During a 1 p.m. press conference, State Fire Marshall Butch Browning also said no chlorine was detected in the air.
"What they have found is no low level detection of chlorine off site, which meant where people walk and where people gather, which is a good thing," Browning said. "The cloud, the plume, as it goes in the air and moves out there is chlorine in that obviously, but that those chemicals are falling in the lake, which is the right place for it because it dilutes the chlorine so that the offside impact, we don't believe, is endangering anyone. But the standard procedure was the immediate shelte- in-place, and that was the action the state took."
Browning also said he is unaware of anyone reporting symptoms of chlorine gas exposure, which would be respiratory distress.
The Lake Charles Fire Department is also at the scene and inside the plant, Langley said.
Environmental Protection Agency personnel are also assisting in the response. The agency is sending a monitoring aircraft to do a flyover.
Louisiana State Police confirmed that a hazmat team is responding, and said their Emergency Services Unit is coordinating with plant managers to contain the leak.
GOHSEP has issued a shelter-in-place advisory for residents nearby.
KIK Custom Products, the company that owns BioLab, released a statement confirming the fire. The facility followed shutdown protocols and was evacuated when Laura reached Category 4 strength, the statement says. All employees have been confirmed to be safe.
"Our priority is the safety and well-being of the Lake Charles community of which we are a part," a KIK Products spokesperson wrote. "We are deploying a specialized team to the site, and we are working with first responders, local authorities, and environmental agencies to contain and mitigate the impact of this incident as quickly as possible."
The Cajun Navy, a southern Louisiana volunteer group that responds to natural disasters, shared this video of smoke rising over the city.
"Residents are advised to shelter in place until further notice and close your doors and windows. Follow the directions of local officials," Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted.
The state also pushed out an emergency text notice.
Interstate 10 was shut down in preparation for Hurricane Laura and remains closed, according to Louisiana State Police.
This is a developing story and will be updated.