Reports of environmental problems caused by Hurricane Ida begin to trickle in

The Times-Picayune – NOLA

Reports of environmental problems caused by Hurricane Ida begin to trickle in

Department of Environmental Quality to inspect industrial sites over next few weeks

Mark Schleifstein, Staff Writer        August 31, 2021

Information about potential environmental threats caused by Hurricane Ida have been slow in coming, but initial reports to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center and the state Department of Environmental Quality confirm there were releases of crude oil, fuel oils and a variety of chemicals in numerous locations in southeastern Louisiana on the day before and the day of the storm.

The information that’s available is not complete or comprehensive, consisting of initial call-in or emailed reports by company officials or others to the two agencies. They include releases of different chemicals by refineries and chemical plants when flares were extinguished by Ida’s winds, as well as the possible release of sewage and wastewater in numerous locations in Jefferson Parish when power was lost, knocking out 95% of the parish pump stations that move waste through underground pipes.

The state environmental agency has already begun more detailed inspections of all facilities within Ida’s path to identify concerns, with that information likely to be made public over the next few weeks.

On Tuesday, the National Response Center had reports on 11 incidents that occurred in Louisiana on Saturday, the day before Ida hit, through the end of Sunday.

The state Department of Environmental Quality listed 35 incidents that had been reported to them on Sunday and Monday, some of which were also reported to the Coast Guard.

The Saturday incidents reported by the Coast Guard:

  • The release of an unknown amount of hydrogen at the Shell Norco facility during a unit’s shutdown in advance of Ida.
  • An unknown amount of ammonia was released from a process safety valve at Cornerstone Chemical in Waggaman. The valve was restored to stop the leak.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard reported several incidents involving ships:

  • A vessel slipped from its moorings at Golden Meadow and was adrift with a tug boat connected to it. Neither were leaking oil.
  • A stray vessel struck another vessel in its berth at Danos Shipyard in Morgan City, and a sheen was noticed in the water nearby.
  • In Port Fourchon, where Ida made landfall at 11:55 a.m., a floating dry dock at Bollinger Fourchon broke free and breached the hull of another vessel, possibly breaching a tank aboard the vessel and resulting in the discharge of some fuel oil. The breach occurred above the water line of the hit vessel.

It also reported a number of releases at refineries, petrochemical plants and pipelines:

  • ETC Texas Pipelines reported the release of two barrels of condensate onto the ground near the intersection of La. 151 and Virgil Road in Minden, La., the result of a corroded pipe.
  • Koch Nitrogen in Hahnville reported the release of 58 pounds of ammonia through a flare during a power outage caused by Ida. The release was halted, and plant officials said they were working to restore power at the plant. No information about the amount of nitrogen released was available
  • CF Industries in Donaldsonville reported that the pilots on the flares of two storage tanks were extinguished, while control valves were partially open, allowing the release of ammonia. “Conditions from Hurricane Ida are ongoing and a crew is unable to secure the release,” the company reported. The amount of ammonia released was unknown.
  • Phillips 66 Pipeline LLC reported two leaks on two separate pipelines, RV 26 and RV 32, due to conditions during Ida, resulting in the release of propylene and isobutane into the atmosphere. “It is unknown if there is waterway impact at this time,” the company reported. The releases were near Paradis and Louisiana 3127 in St. Charles Parish.
  • Mosaic Fertilizer reported ammonia vapor released inside its St. James facility after a flare blew out during Ida.
  • Shintech Louisiana, in Plaquemine, reported the release of an unknown amount of ethylene dichloride from a storage tank into the air “due to power consistency/Hurricane Ida.”

The DEQ list includes the Phillips 66 Pipeline, Mosaic and Shintech reports, and many other reports of incidents at refineries, chemical plants, pipelines, vessels and other government and business sites, including one made by the Entergy Waterford 3 nuclear power plant. The information reported by DEQ was less detailed than that made public by the Coast Guard.

  • Jefferson Parish Sewer Department reported wastewater and rainwater were released due to loss of power that caused 95% of the lift stations that move waste through pipes to fail. The releases were in various locations throughout the parish.
  • Waterford 3 in Hahnville reported an unusual event due to the loss of power running to the station from offsite. There was no release of radiation or other materials resulting from that power loss.
  • Chalmette Refining reported the release of sulphur dioxide from a flare due to loss of power.
  • The Dow-Union Carbide plant in Hahnville reported flaring of products and byproducts due to loss of power.
  • ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge reported releases of nitrogen oxide, nitrate, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide due to an upset caused by Ida.
  • Hudson Marine/Orion Reederei reported that a vessel ran aground at Magnolia Landing in St. James Parish. No release was reported.
  • Energy Transfer Partners/Lone Star NGL in Geismar reported a loss of power that caused its flare to produce black smoke. What was actually released was unknown
  • Marquette Transportation on the Mississippi River near LaPlace reported fuel coming from the cargo vessel Golden L.
  • Kirby Inland Marine on the river in St. Charles Parish, reported the release of pygas in a discharge from a tank of the barge M/V Kirby 28046.
  • Cornerstone Chemical reported the release of sulphur dioxide and sulphur trioxide. “Molten sulfur tank may have been struck by lightning or other ignition source,” the report said.
  • Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse reported a release of mainly stormwater after the refinery was flooded when a levee was overtopped. Officials hope to open floodgates to reduce water within the leveed area to lessen the flooding impact.
  • The Valero St. Charles refinery in Norco reported damage to a gasoline tank and a release of gasoline.
  • Entergy’s Little Gypsy Plant in Montz reported an unknown amount of asbestos blown off the ground.
  • ECM Maritime/Hokoku Marine reported that one of its vessels in the Mississippi River ran aground in St. Charles Parish, and there was potential for release of fuel oil.
  • Marathon Pipeline’s St. James Tank Farm reported crude oil discharged onto an aboveground storage tank and then onto the ground and into surface water.
  • Hudson Marine reported that tugs broke free from the Bonnet Carre Anchorage at Norco and struck a vessel. There is the potential for a release.
  • Tennessee Gas Pipeline reported that a nipple on a pipeline near Golden Meadow was damaged, releasing natural gas.
  • Gallagher Marine/Safety Sailing Ship Management reported that the bulk cargo ship L/T Ocean Star was aground in the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish and there was potential for the release of oil.
  • The Coast Guard reported that there was an unidentified barge sunk in the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish, posing the threat of a release of an unknown amount of oil.
  • Clean Gulf reported oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico a few miles off Port Fourchon from an unknown source.
  • Shell Pipeline reported damage to piping at a pipeline booster facility near Golden Meadow that was leaking crude oil.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.

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