Last week’s ammonia leak at the Reddy Ice facility on Myrtle Street that caused Baton Rouge firefighters to evacuate a nearby school and a few elderly residents has prompted a lawsuit by several residents.
The suit seeks class-action certification and an unspecified amount of damages from the company.
“Each of the plaintiffs and proposed class representatives was exposed to the chemicals released and each suffers from inhalation of noxious and/or hazardous fumes and physical symptoms and pain and suffering and fear and fright associated therewith,” the suit, filed Friday in the 19th Judicial District Court, claims.
The anhydrous ammonia leak was first reported at 3:16 p.m. Thursday and was shut off about an hour later, Fire Department spokesman Curt Monte has said. Firefighters arrived at 3:19 p.m. and evacuated St. Francis Xavier Catholic School at 1150 S. 12th St., and a few elderly residents living near the facility, he said.
Firefighters advised other residents to stay in their houses during the cleanup process. Baton Rouge police officers closed the roads in a two-block area near the business, located at 1140 Myrtle St., Monte said.
The area was declared safe just after 9 p.m., he stated. The leak’s source was a stem from a valve on a tank, and the department’s hazardous material unit closed the main valve to the system to stop the leak, Monte said. It took the hazmat team about 10 minutes to identify the source and about five minutes to shut it down, he said.
The suit’s named plaintiffs — Larry Selders, Maria Magee Williams, Cornell Legarde and Turika Ratliff — contend there was “no forewarning that chemicals were being released.”
“Individuals present in the effected vicinage of the release were never warned of the dangers associated with the chemicals,” the suit adds.
Reddy Ice officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Ammonia is a colorless gas with a strong penetrating odor that causes severe respiratory tract, eye and skin burns and may cause target organ damage, the suit states.
In August 2007, an icemaker’s compressor at Reddy Ice shut down during power fluctuations in the area, and while the compressor shut down, the water supply pump continued to run, heating ammonia in the icemaker and activating the safety release valve, state Department of Environmental Quality documents show.
The safety release valve released less than 50 pounds of ammonia into water-filled diffusion tanks in the 2007 incident, confining the ammonia on-site, the documents indicate.
“Even after a prior release, Reddy Ice failed/refused to take measures to protect those in the vicinage from fugitive releases,” the suit claims.
The suit has been assigned to state District Judge William Morvant.