ExxonMobil fire released harmful chemicals, none detected outside of facility

Feb. 13 (UPI) — The fire at an ExxonMobil Refinery in Louisiana on Tuesday released harmful chemicals in unknown quantities, but no dangerous chemicals were detected outside of the facility, authorities reported.

A report by the Louisiana State Police said that cancer-causing chemicals benzene and 1,3 butadiene were released during the blaze along with other chemicals that are toxic at high levels of concentration.

The estimated amounts of the chemicals that were released are likely to remain unclear until ExxonMobil provides state regulators with a so-called seven-day report, but state officials said the fire likely caused the harmful chemicals to combust, converting them into other materials including some that are also toxic.

Air monitoring inside, around and away from the plant did not detect harmful concentrations of chemicals being released into the air or to the broader public, officials said.

Exxon reported to authorities that an estimated 10,000 pounds of butadiene was released during the fire and an amount of Benzene likely exceeding 10 pounds was also released. Sulfur dioxide was also released hours after the incident began and the incident could have caused “flammable vapor” such as natural gas to be released into the nearby community.

The state police report said the fire was discovered at 11 p.m. but Exxon didn’t notify police until 58 minutes later just short of the 1-hour deadline to report emergency incidents.

A Baton Rouge Fire Department hazmat unit initially began monitoring the air quality outside of Exxon’s fence line before being joined by Exxon staff.

The company said workers with the Environmental Protection Agency arrived at the facility but did not conduct their own air quality testing because they were “impressed” with Exxon’s testing.