BR.motiva bf 0527.jpg

Smoke billows and fire flashes from an explosion and fire at the Motiva Plant on LA-70 in St. James Parish near the Sunshine Bridge on Thursday August 11, 2016.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

The covers used to stop hydrocarbons from leaking into the parish drainage system near the fire-damaged part of Motiva's Convent refinery are reportedly stuck and high water surrounds the shut-down unit.

Reuters reported that high water surrounds the H-Oil unit, or heavy oil hydrocracker, at the refinery, although none of the other units at the facility are in danger of flooding.

Motiva spokeswoman Angela Goodwin said Friday the water is challenging in that whole area, but there is no flooding inside the refinery.

"The storm water is leaving the refinery normally, and the refinery is operating normally other than the affected H-Oil unit. We are taking all measures to make sure there is no environmental impact to the community," Goodwin said.

Goodwin did not address whether the rubber storm drain covers were in fact stuck.

The fire started a little before 11 a.m. Thursday. Firefighters spent more than four hours battling the blaze, whose flames stretched dozens of feet high. No one was injured in the fire. The cause of the fire is being investigated. On Friday, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it is not investigating the incident.

St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin said there was a concern during the fire that crude might spill, especially near the damaged unit, and that storm water would wash it into the ditches and canals. But Motiva assured parish officials the company was taking precautions to prevent that.

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel said early on during Thursday's fire, parish officials checked with Motiva on the company's plan to stop contaminants from getting into the parish's nearby drainage canal.

"So yesterday afternoon once they got the fires out, they boomed the canal. Our guys was out with them again the canal, and they double-boomed the canal this morning," Roussel said.

Containment booms are floating barriers used to prevent the spread of oil. 

Roussel said the parish's Emergency Preparedness staff has been on site all day, and so far there hasn't been a sheen that would indicate oil is escaping.

"So no problems yet," he said.

Roussell said he hasn't heard of reports of flooding at the refinery, but anything is a possibility with the kind of heavy rain that was happening Friday.

Advocate staff writer David Mitchell contributed to this report.

Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.