Williams restarts Geismar plant closed by 2013 explosion _lowres

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Chemicals burn following a plant explosion at Williams Geismar Olefins plant.

Williams Olefins LLC Geismar facility has paid a $194,306 fine that covers 32 “penalty events” dating back to 2008, including four that relate to a June 13, 2013, fire at the plant.

The penalty assessment sent to the company on Nov. 21 is the result of a compliance review the state Department of Environmental Quality started at the facility in 2009.

Settlement discussion between DEQ and the company on compliance problems started in 2010. But before those talks could be concluded, an explosion and fire at the facility in 2013 put the process on hold, said Celena Cage, administrator of the DEQ enforcement division.

It was decided that all of the penalty events, from 2009 to the 2013 fire, would be included into one consolidated order, she said. A penalty event is different than a violation because each event can potentially include more than one violation, Cage said.

State law dictates how each penalty event is assessed for the purposes of determining the size of the fine. The process includes consideration of things like the seriousness of the penalty, risk to human health and if there is a history of previous violations.

In this case, the violations ranged from problems with scheduled reports to the June 13, 2013, fire at the plant that left two people dead and more than 100 people injured.

Four of the violations relate to the fire. They include the release of air pollution from a tower during the fire; air pollution released from a flare; release of pollution from a safety relief valve; and issues with a flare that was receiving a lot of material while the facility was trying to clear product out of equipment during the fire.

Tom Droege, a company spokesman, wrote said in an email response to question that the company’s top priority is safety and the protection of our employees, contractors and communities in which Williams does business.

“We fully supported the LDEQ review process including meeting all self-reporting requirements,” Droege said.

The plant is in the process of starting up for production of ethylene for sale again sometime this month, Droege said.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.