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Second Louisiana Chemical Blast in Two Days

Common Dreams staff

Federal investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are expected in south Louisiana over the weekend after the second explosion of a chemical plant occurred in Louisiana in two days.

On Friday, one worker was killed and seven were wounded after an explosion at a chemical plant in Donaldsonville, La. was set off while workers were running nitrogen through hoses from an 18-wheeler and pressurizing an unspecified "vessel," Louisiana state police trooper Jared Sandifer said.

The blast comes shortly after a lethal blast and hydrocarbon fire at a chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana on Thursday.

The Associated Press reports:

A Louisiana state police trooper, Jared Sandifer, said seven people were injured, some severely, and were taken to area hospitals following the explosion at a CF Industries facility in Donaldsonville. Police identified the deceased worker as Ronald "Rocky" Morris, 55, of Belle Rose.

"It did horrific damage to the area," Sandifer said, adding that the state police's hazardous materials unit will inspect the plant to ensure that it's safe and help determine if there was negligence involved.

CF Industries' website says the plant can produce roughly 5 million tons of nitrogen for agricultural and industrial uses annually. On Thursday, an explosion at a chemical plant in Geismar owned by Williams Cos Inc led to two deaths and injured dozens of others. Donaldsonville and Geismar are both located in Ascension Parish and straddle the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. [...]

"The incident involved the rupture of an inert nitrogen vessel during the off-loading of nitrogen," the news release said. "There was no fire or chemical release nor is there any threat or hazard posed to the community."

CF Industries manufactures ammonia and other nitrogen fertilizers at its Donaldsonville plant. "Our focus is on our number one priority – the health and safety of our employees and the community," plant manager Lou Frey said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our employees."

This isn't the first deadly blast at the company's Donaldsonville plant. Three workers were killed and nine others were injured by an explosion and fire at the facility in May 2000. Later that year, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration imposed a fine of nearly $150,000 against CF Industries. OSHA cited the company for 14 alleged safety and health violations, 12 of which were described by the agency as serious. The company didn't contest the citations and agreed to pay the penalties.


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