Louisiana Residents Complain of 'Toxic Cloud'

     BATON ROUGE, La. (CN) - A history of safety violations preceded a fatal Louisiana plant explosion that caused a fire and released a "toxic cloud," a federal class action claims.
     The Geismar, La., facility operated by William Olefins LLC "produces approximately 1.3 billion pounds of ethylene and 90 million pounds of polymer grade propylene," according to the complaint filed Monday.
     It exploded on June 13, 2013, at approximately 8:30 a.m., leading to a mandatory evacuation, including "road closures and the shut-down of businesses in the area," Abraham Bosley, who purports to represent a class, claims in Federal Court.
     The U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited William Olefins for the explosion in December, saying its workplace-safety failures "cost two workers their lives," according to the complaint.
     Abraham Bosley named Williams Olefins LLC as a defendant as well as the Tulsa, Okla.-based subsidiary Williams Partners LP. He purports to anyone who suffered injuries or damages while working, shopping and/or residing in and around Geismar, La., at the time of the explosion.
     "Following the explosion and subsequent fire, a large amount of toxic chemicals were released into the surrounding areas including but not limited to ethylene, propylene and other gases and toxic materials," the complaint states.
     Residents and other members of the class "have suffered injury to their respiratory systems" and other damages and expenses related to "evacuation, inconvenience, loss of income, and fear and fright," according to the complaint.
     Among six OSHA violations for which William Olefins was cited after the explosion was one "willful" violation "for failing to develop clear, written procedures for how to change and put idle pressure vessels into service," according to the complaint.
     Williams Olefins and Williams Partners "had a history of citations, warnings and shut-downs due to improper storage and handling of chemicals," including a 2010 citation for releasing excess ethylene and a 2012 propylene leak, the class claims.
     Fault lies with William Olefins and Williams Partners because they failed to reasonably handle chemicals, properly maintain gas lines, inspect products and implement safety regulations, among other things, the complaint continues.
     Lead plaintiff Bosley says he was working at a nearby plant when the explosion occurred.
     The class seeks actual and punitive damages. It is represented by Eric O'Bell with Gauthier, Houghtaling and Williams in Metairie, La.
     Williams Olefins did not immediately return a request for comment.