Norco, Louisiana Chemical Leak Prompts Evacuations, School Closures

Residents living near a <"">chemical plant in Norco, Louisiana were advised to evacuate yesterday, after a pipeline ruptured, releasing a chemical called titanium tetrachloride into the air. Because of the release, three Norco schools were shut down for the day.

Norco is in St. Charles Parish, close to New Orleans, on the Bonnet Carre Spillway, which connects Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Its population is about 4,000. The leak occurred at Dow unit at Hexion Specialty Chemicals’ Norco plant, formerly owned by Shell Chemical. The pipeline ruptured around 4:30 a.m. yesterday morning.

Titanium tetrachloride converts to hydrochloric acid and can irritate eyes and throats as a vapor. According to, residents living on Fifth Street from the Spillway to Spruce, including Honeysuckle and Wild Rose Drive and on Spruce Street from Fifth Street south were advised to evacuate until further notice. About 30-40 homes are included in the evacuation zone, as are three schools – Sacred Heart, Norco Elementary K-3 and Norco Elementary 4-6. That area was also closed to traffic.

Three people reportedly went to the emergency room at River Parishes Hospital in LaPlace for treatment related to the release, said.

The cleanup at the plant continued late into last night. Residents were allowed to return to their homes today, and schools closed because of the leak reopened as well. The All Clear was issued just before midnight last night.

According to, an investigation team, made up of Dow Chemical experts from around the world, will perform a “root cause investigation.”

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