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Lawsuit Filed in Chalmette Refining Powder Release

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Chalmette Refining has been hit with a lawsuit over a Labor Day release of spent catalyst powder at its Louisiana Refinery. The lawsuit, which was filed in US District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, seeks class action status to benefit anyone impacted by the Chalmette Refining powder release.

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 Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Lauren Stone, a resident of St. Bernard Parish, where the Chalmette Refining facility is located. The lawsuit alleges that the substance released on Labor Day was harmful and hazardous, and that Chalmette Refining failed to warn the petitioners to stay away from the powder. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that plaintiffs suffered injuries, symptoms and damages resulting from the catalyst powder release, and have incurred, or may incurr, medical expenses, lost wages or loss of earning capacity.

Following Monday’s release, officials from both the refinery and St. Bernard’s Parish maintained that the powder is 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 Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental group, has assailed characterizations that the release was non-hazardous, and pointed out that the US Environmental Protection Agency considers “Spent Catalyst” dust the type of pollution that could lead to a variety of health risks like difficulty breathing and aggravated asthma if one breathes in the fine particles.

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