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CSB Provides Update on Deployment to Chemical Incident in Westlake, Louisiana

U.S. Chemical Safety Board, August 31, 2020

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) recently provided an update on its deployment to the Bio-Lab chemical plant fire that occurred in Westlake, Louisiana, on Thursday, August 27, 2020, at approximately 7:48 a.m. CDT, following landfall of Hurricane Laura.
 
On Saturday, CSB investigators arrived onsite at the facility to begin their investigative activities into the incident. The CSB’s investigators have not yet been able to enter the area where the fire occurred but were able to conduct a perimeter tour of the facility in order to survey the damage.

The CSB can confirm the following details related to the August 27th incident: 

  • Bio-Lab is a manufacturer of pool and spa treatment products. Chlorine gas is used in the production of these products and the products also contain chlorine.
  • Chlorine gas, which is used in their process, is supplied from a nearby facility.
  • On Monday, August 24, the night shift commenced the shutdown procedure for the facility due to the expected arrival of Hurricane Laura.
  • The shutdown procedure was completed on Tuesday, August 25.
  • A “ride-out” crew consisting of nine employees was assigned to the facility for the storm.
  • At approximately 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 26, after Hurricane Laura reached a Category 4 status, the ride-out crew evacuated the facility at the direction of the company.
  • On Thursday, August 27, the ride-out crew returned to the facility and discovered the fire at approximately 7:48 a.m.
  • The chemical trichloroisocyanuric acid (tri-chlor) is produced and stored at the facility.
  • The company reported that the amount of tri-chlor stored at the facility on August 25, 2020 was approximately 835 tons.
  • The company reported that a significant section of the roof of the warehouse, located adjacent to a location known as Plant 4, was damaged during the hurricane.

Investigators will return to the site of the incident to conduct a more thorough on-scene investigation. In the meantime, the investigators continue to collect essential facts, issue document requests and identify key personnel members to interview. The CSB will provide updates throughout the initial phase of its investigative activities and will conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of this incident.

About the CSB

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating and determining the cause or probable cause of industrial chemical incidents resulting from the accidental release of a regulated or extremely hazardous substance into the ambient air.

The CSB’s core mission activities include conducting incident investigations; formulating preventive or mitigative recommendations based on investigation findings and advocating for their implementation; issuing reports containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations arising from incident investigations; and conducting studies on chemical hazards.

The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit our website, www.csb.gov.

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at public@csb.gov or by phone at 202.446.8094.


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