A sulfuric acid release injured three workers — sending two to the hospital — at ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge chemical plant Monday morning.
The company did not elaborate on the events leading up to the 7:30 a.m. incident, and state officials said Monday they were still trying to piece together what happened.
The three injured workers were all contractors. Exxon's first responders initially treated all three; one went to a local clinic, but the other two were taken to Baton Rouge General Medical Center for further observation. Those two were released from the hospital later Monday, a company spokeswoman said.
None of the liquid sulfuric acid that was released escaped off the plant site, said Greg Langley, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. He said it was a comparatively small amount, a fact Exxon also emphasized.
“There was no reportable quantity exceedance or external impact associated with this incident,” the company wrote in a statement. The company estimates the quantity at about a gallon.
Sulfuric acid is considered a dangerous substance by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Workers who dispose of spills must wear complete protective clothing and use a breathing apparatus.
NIOSH’s description of short-term exposure is to the point: “Corrosive. The substance is very corrosive to the eyes, the skin and the respiratory tract. Corrosive on ingestion. Inhalation of an aerosol of this substance may cause lung oedema (excess fluid in the lung),” the Institute writes in its fact sheet.
Because none of the material left the chemical plant to impact the community at large, Langley expects that any follow-up investigation will be performed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“We regret that this incident has occurred, and our thoughts are with the individuals injured. Our priority is always the safety of our workforce and community,” ExxonMobil Chemical Plant Manager Dave Luecke said in a statement.