Elevated flare ongoing at Norco facility

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 4, 2012 at 11:23 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 4 at 11:41 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

NORCO, La.-- Just a few blocks away from his Norco home, Alex Bramlatt has an up-close view of what others can see from miles away.

"When I got back, it was flaring pretty good," he said.

Since Sunday morning, there has been an ongoing, elevated flare at the Shell-Motiva Manufacturing Complex in Norco. It was first reported to the National Response Center (NRC) as "an unknown piece of equipment at the facility that is releasing materials to the air." The NRC report lists the materials as Butadiene, Benzene and Hydrogen Sulfide.

"They're toxicants that cause either disease or health problems in the high amounts or in the acute basis, or in long-term exposure," said Jay Colingham of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental watchdog group.

In a statement on Tuesday, the facility said the flaring was due to an "operational upset" and added, "we are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible... We also continue to conduct extensive monitoring around the site and... air monitoring results indicate no environmental impact at this time."

A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said the same thing: that there were no off-site impacts -- to either people or the environment -- from the flaring.

However, the Bucket Brigade is not convinced.

"There is also a pernicious, ongoing, long threat -- that the people in this case and all over Louisiana, who are next to these refineries, but specifically in this case, are next to a release of benzene, which is a known carcinogen," said Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

In the meantime, residents like Alex Bramlatt said they've seen flares before, but not quite like this one.

"This is unusual," he said. "Just the length of time and the excessively black smoke."

A spokesperson for DEQ said, at this point, they don't know when the facility will be done fixing the problem nor when the flaring will stop.

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