A BioLab chemical plant caught fire shortly after it was struck by Hurricane Laura.
The plant, in Westlake, La., smoldered for two and a half days before firefighters could completely extinguish it. Residents were told to stay indoors with windows and doors closed.
No injuries or illnesses were reported as a result of the fire. According to BioLab parent company KIK Custom Products, the facility had already been evacuated to make way for the storm, and all employees were confirmed safe.
The State Police Hazmat Unit is conducting an investigation on the cause and to assess damages. It likely will take several months, said Sargent James Anderson of the State Police.
After seeing the site, the department suspects that the incident was caused when water entered an enclosed area that had been breached because of storm damage. However, this is a preliminary theory, and it won’t be finalized until the investigation is complete.
BioLab and KIK are still assessing the extent of damage and lost product, said Isabelle Pierre, general counsel for KIK Custom Products.
It is known what chemical was involved — trichloroisocyanuric acid. This leaves some industry professionals worrying about the availability of trichlor for the season. More than usual of the ever-popular sanitizer may be needed this year, as children continue schooling at home and families extend their swim seasons. Additionally, professionals are receiving notices from manufacturers about price increases. This includes a 7½% rise in the price of liquid chlorine, causing even more concern about the effects of the BioLab fire, said David Hawes, CEO of H&H Pool Services in Dublin, Calif., and CFO of the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association.
“We’re all sitting on pins and needles to see if the [fire] will affect chlorine tablet supply and pricing,” he said.
To make sure his company is set for a protracted swim season, he is stocking up. “It seems weird, because normally in September you’re starting to slow down a little bit. But you can store some of the dry chemical without too much trouble, so we’re bulking up a little bit. If the price doesn’t go down, I’ll just be stocked up.”
Article by: (Author) Rebecca Robledo... a deputy editor of Pool & Spa News and Aquatics International.
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