St. Rose odor source detected

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 20, 2014

By Monique Roth

ST. ROSE — The refining of crude oil containing high levels of sulfur compounds has been attributed for the foul odor that has permeated the air in St. Rose since June 7.

Department of Environmental Quality Public Information Officer Tim Beckstrom said International-Matex Tank Terminals and Shell Chemical have claimed responsibility for the odor.

On Thursday Shell and IMTT released the following statement on the odor issue:

“As part of our continuing commitment to be good neighbors, Shell and IMTT are working together to prevent nuisance odors in the St. Rose, Louisiana area. Shell and IMTT have both performed stack tests under the supervision of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in an effort to locate odor sources on the St. Rose site. The tests determined emissions to be well within permit limits. All ambient air test results from the site and in the community met EPA air quality standards.

“Shell and IMTT are working collaboratively to immediately install additional odor control equipment to remove trace non-toxic sulfur compounds. Shell and IMTT are also working jointly on an improved process to notify state and local officials. A release of any kind is something Shell and IMTT take very seriously. The protection of the communities where we operate, our workers, and the environment remain our top priorities.”

Beckstrom emphasized the department’s air sampling from the site and in the community has met EPA air quality standards since testing started June 9.

For two weeks residents have complained the odor has made them sick, citing nausea, vomiting, headaches and other issues as ailments they attribute to the odor.

“The health impacts of this ongoing accident are being brushed under the rug,” Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said Thursday at a press conference in St. Rose. “We are appealing to health professionals from around the state to come to St. Rose.

“We need medical missions to come to St. Charles Parish and help.”

Beckstrom said equipment is being cleaned, and the suspect product is being removed from the site. An investigation into the matter is ongoing, and penalties may result from the findings, he said.

The companies involved have discussed setting up a help line so residents can immediately call if a smell is detected in the future, Beckstrom said.

Bucket Brigade officials said reports from residents of St. Rose tell a dramatically different story from Shell and IMTT, “one of a community whose health was seriously impacted by a potent, ongoing chemical odor,” a release from the group said.

“Over 80 percent of residents interviewed on June 13 by the Bucket Brigade’s Emergency Response Team reported odor-induced health impacts, from vomiting to diarrhea,” the release said. “The acute health effects are in stark contrast to the Shell and IMTT statement. This leads to one of two conclusions: either IMTT and Shell are knowingly misleading the public about a serious chemical accident, or a process is not in place to adequately protect the health and safety of surrounding communities.”

St. Charles Parish residents are encouraged to make odor complaints to the St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center any time by calling 985-783-5050. Each complaint is investigated.” 

“We share the concerns of residents and will continue to monitor this situation going forward by continuing to work with our industrial and state partners,” St. Charles Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Ron Perry said.