DEQ reports sulfur dioxide undetected in Chalmette incident

Arrow points to the Lower Algiers/Chalmette ferry route (DOTD/Google Maps)
Arrow points to the Lower Algiers/Chalmette ferry route (DOTD/Google Maps)

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality reports post incident air monitoring showed non detect for sulfur dioxide.

Officials are currently monitoring the air from the ferry landing through Paris Road, St. Bernard Highway and the perimeter of the plant, as well as inside the plant with two different meters.

St. Bernard authorities say, around 6:00 p.m., a gray cloud of smoke drifted over the Mississippi River, just as the ferry was crossing over to Chalmette.  Some crew members and an unknown number of passengers reported eye and throat irritations after encountering the smoke. The health impact appears to be minor, but at least some of those affected were transported to a local hospital.

Following this, ferry management decided to close the ferry for the night and contacted the state Department of Environmental Quality and parish officials.

DEQ officials initially suspected it came from the Rain CII plant in Chalmette, however a company spokesperson from Rain CII reports there was no chemical release from the facility.

Rain CII Carbon LLC released this statement to Fox 8 Saturday afternoon:

"The Rain CII Chalmette plant restarted operations Friday after a routine maintenance shutdown.  The plant has been and continues operating under normal conditions since start up Friday and there was no release from our facility.  We are cooperating with the DEQ, Coast Guard and Fire Department in their requests for information on this reported incident.  We strive to operate our facilities in full compliance with all federal, state and local environmental permits.  Rain CII is committed to safety and minimizing our ecological impact on surrounding communities, and the environment in general.  We will continue to work with authorities to provide whatever information is needed regarding our operations."

According to Louisiana State Police, the plant at Chalmette has been out of production for the past week and was engaged in some sort of clean-up process.

At this point, state and local authorities have not declared an public health threat for the area.

This incident remains under investigation.