Refinery residue drifts over schoolchildren
Saturday, January 13, 2007
From staff reports
State environmental officials were investigating an incident in which a
petroleum waste residue was released into the air from the Chalmette
refinery and drifted over hundreds of elementary school students viewing
a battlefield re-enactment nearby, according to a spokesman for the state
Department of Environmental Quality.
Two children were taken to the hospital, spokesman Darin Mann said in a
"The material is considered to have a low degree of toxicity and is not
expected to have any adverse health effects," he said.
The accidental release occurred during a routine procedure in which
refinery workers reduce residual waste produced by the refining of
gasoline, said Senior Trooper Arrid Hansell of the State Police Emergency
The waste is contained in a large "petroleum coke drum," and eventually
released into a hopper through a trap-door at the bottom of the 150-foot
drum. But before that step could be reached, some residue that hadn't
been reduced sufficiently in a previous step "was burped up" out of the
drum and into the atmosphere, Hansell said.
It was released in the form of "small fine material," Hansell said, and
passed over the crowd of people -- probably as many as 1,000 including
the children -- between 12:15 and 12:19 p.m., he said.
Hansell said he had no reports of anyone having to be hospitalized, but
heard that a handful of people had gone to a hospital themselves with
minor complaints that required only brief treatment before they were