As many as 600 workers were at the Williams Geismar Olefins chemical facility in Geismar, La., this morning when an explosion occurred just after 8:30 a.m., rocking the area and starting a large fire. Initial reports list one fatality and 33 injured employees, some of them seriously. Employees at companies as far as 2 miles away were told to shelter in place.
At the onset of the incident, Louisiana State Police and the Ascension Parish and Iberville Parish offices of emergency planning (OEP) were notified. Both Ascension and Iberville OEPs activated their emergency alert systems. Local roads initially were closed and residents were told to shelter in place until air quality monitoring could be completed.
Officials with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have completed some of the monitoring and have found nothing they consider alarming. The facility produces 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene annually.
The company released a statement that said, “We are currently focused on the safety and well-being of our employees, contractors and the local community who are responding to the situation… Our emergency-response crews are thoroughly trained to respond to these types of incidents and are diligently performing their work with their first priority being the safety and well-being of people in and around the area.”
The statement said the company is in “the process of accounting for all personnel. Injuries have been reported, the number and extent of those injuries is not known at this point.”