A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of victims of the Chalmette Refining powder release that occurred on Monday in Louisiana. The suit, which was filed in federal court in New Orleans, seeks class action status.
At least 2,000 lbs of the powder, a byproduct of refining operations, was released on Monday as a result of a power outage that occurred around 2:00 a.m. local time. The powder release blanketed parts of Chalmette, Arabi and New Orleansâ€™ Lower Ninth Ward.
Officials from both the refinery and St. Bernardâ€™s Parish maintained that the powder was not hazardous, and said it was safe for residents to wash it off cars and buildings. However, one local TV station reported that the Material Safety Data Sheet for the catalyst powder says it can be an irritant to the eyes and skin if inhaled or ingested. The data sheet cautions people to wear rubber gloves when handling the powder, and to decontaminate clothes and shoes, or even dispose of them all together.
The lead plaintiff in the Chalmette Refining powder release lawsuit is Lauren Stone, a St. Bernard Parish resident. She alleges that the substance released on Labor Day was harmful and hazardous, and that Chalmette Refining failed to warn people to stay away from the powder. The lawsuit further alleges that, among other things, Stone and others similarly affected suffered injuries, symptoms and damages resulting from the catalyst powder release, and have incurred, or may incur, medical expenses, lost wages or loss of earning capacity.
This is not the first time Chalmette Refining has been named in such a class action lawsuit. A similar complaint was filed in 2007, following a release of coke dust from the facility. Hundreds of fourth- and fifth-graders were exposed to the coke dust while on a field trip to the Chalmette Battlefield. Two children were hospitalized during that incident. That lawsuit was granted class action certification in June.