BRAITHWAITE, La. - Sunday marked Jill Baumy's first time back in her Braithwaite Park home since flood waters filled it to the roof. She said authorities previously blocked her from entering her neighborhood because of a chemical issue several miles down the road, at the Stolthaven facility.
Now, Baumy's wondering if flood waters brought dangerous chemicals into her home.
"You don't know whether you should be looking for a home somewhere else or whether you can come back here," said Baumy.
State police have been working to repair the hurricane-ravaged facility for days. Flooding at the Stolthaven facility pushed more than 100 rail cars off the track, some of which carried hazardous materials, said state police . Some tanks were also knocked off their foundations; others carried chemicals that can become explosive if they exceed a certain temperature, a major concern because the plant lost power. Haz mat teams brought in chillers and inhibitors in order to curb any chemical reaction.
Commander Doug Cain, state police spokesman, said there is no immediate threat to the public and there is no evidence of any chemical release.
But the potential for a release remains, and that's why an evacuation order remains in affect for those who live half a mile North or South of the plant. The order doesn't impact Mississippi River traffic or the West Bank of Plaquemines Parish.
"We don't believe there's any cause for concern. Everything to this point has been successful. They're making progress," said Cain. "As long as the potential for off site impact exists, we have to err on the side of caution and keep the evacuation order in place."
Still, attorney Dominick Impastato filed a class action lawsuit against Stolthaven Tuesday on behalf of residents impacted by the situation.
"There are people who have seen, who were there rescuing people in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac off of rooftops, who know what they smelled something very horrible, saw chemicals on the water, and have serious concerns because of it," said Impastato. "We want these homeowners made whole. We want to make sure that if there is any contamination out there, that it's properly taken care of."
The London-based company has not responded to the suit, which was filed in Plaquemines Parish.
The water receded a great deal in Braithwaite Sunday, with just a few inches on the road in Braithwaite Park, as opposed to several feet the day before. Rodney Mallett, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, said more of the company's equipment is up and running now that water has receded. He said the results of surface water tests should be back later this week. And air quality samples have not revealed any dangerous levels of chemicals.The soil has not yet been tested because flood waters have not receded enough, said Mallett.
Mallett also said Stolthaven is working to control water runoff from inside the facility.
A news release on the company's website said, in part, "Prior to landfall of the hurricane the terminal was shut down according to the company's existing emergency procedures to reduce the chance of damage to the terminal and possible resulting environmental impact,"
According to the company's website, it is global provider of integrated transportation solutions for bulk liquid chemicals, edible oils, acids, and other specialty liquids.