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Axiall consultant calculating chemical release

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Work is underway to determine the quantity of chemicals released during a fire at the Axiall plant last month.

A consultant for Axiall is doing the math to find out exactly which chemicals and how much may have been released in a fire December 20th.

The information will help the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality decide if penalties should be imposed.

Axiall's preliminary report to DEQ tells what they know so far,  about the fire last month.

It happened in the vinyl chloride plant south of Interstate 10 where three chemicals are involved in the process. The report says hydrochloric acid is generated from burning the other two, vinyl choride monomer and ethylene dichloride. Though no chemicals were detected offsite, the numbers of what was finally released must be calculated as Axiall spokesman Alan Chapple explained.

"A preliminary review of on site and offsite air monitors have not detected the presence of hydrochloric acid, ethylene dichloride or vcm and those are the chemicals most likely to have been involved in the fire. We're currently working with an outside, third party consultant to conduct a detailed calculation to help us determine the final quantity of the chemicals that might have been discharged," said Chapple.  He went on to say, "We also want to point out that we recognize that this is a serious incident and we are grateful for the rapid and effective emergency response.  We regret the disruption this event has caused in our community, and we are working to understand the cause so we can apply what we learn from this incident to improve our operations." said Chapple.

DEQ's Greg Langley says the calculations and other findings will determine if the agency will penalize Axiall.

"They take into consideration what toxic substances were released, the amounts, the amount of time, what area was affected and they might look at what procedures were cited. They have guidelines they follow," said Langley.

So far, the cause of the fire has not been determined. The report to DEQ says after the fire started, the unit was shut down right away. The results of the investigation will help determine if any corrective or preventive measures should be taken for the future.

Axiall is the company created when PPG and Georgia Gulf merged last year.

DEQ officials say Axiall is required to provide them with updates on the fire at least every sixty days.

To read the "unauthorized discharge notification report" filed by Axiall click here.

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