Dow Chemical Leak Forces Evacuation

    NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A hazardous chemical leak early Tuesday morning forced dozens of Norco residents to evacuate homes and businesses, and cancel school. Evacuees filed a federal class action against Dow Chemical and Hexion Specialty Chemicals Tuesday afternoon.
     Citizens say their neighborhood was contaminated with titanium tetrachloride and other hazardous chemicals when an electrical pipe at the Dow Chemical Plant malfunctioned at about 4:30 a.m. and released the chemical into the air.
     Titanium tetrachloride can convert into hydrochloric acid and cause eye and throat irritation and other serious health problems.
     The plaintiffs say roads were closed and homes and businesses evacuated.
     Norco is in St. Charles Parish, close to New Orleans, on the Bonnet Carre Spillway, which connects Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Its population is about 4,000.
     The name of the town derives from the New Orleans Refining Company. Several chemical companies are located in Norco, including Dow.
     The class claims that Dow failed to properly inspect and maintain its equipment.
     Officials said early today (Wednesday) that residents evacuated from 42 homes can return, and the three schools that closed on Tuesday can reopen.
     "No further protective actions are necessary, and those evacuated may return home," according to the St. Charles Parish Web site.
     The class seeks medical monitoring and damages for injuries, emotional distress, and the possible effects the leak will have on their property values.
     The class is represented by Hugh Lambert of New Orleans.