Employees take precautions after sulfur dioxide release

Nine employees and contractors at Mosaic Fertilizer’s Uncle Sam plant were treated for nausea and other symptoms of exposure after a release of sulfur dioxide at the facility Wednesday morning, according to company spokesman Dave Townsend. None of the employees needed to be taken to the hospital.

At about 10:15 a.m. a blower at the plant malfunctioned and caused a shutdown leading to a release of an unknown quantity of sulfur dioxide, Townsend said. As a precaution, about 200 employees and contractors at the facility were told to shelter in place.

That precaution was lifted at 1:30 p.m. and air monitors don’t show any remaining pollution in the area, he said. However, while safety checks were going on around the facility Wednesday, non-essential employees and contractors were told to go home for the day.

State Police Sgt. J.B. Slaton said the plant was cleared and there were no road closures or off-site impacts associated with the release.

The plant produces a component of fertilizer, sulfuric acid, which is combined with other ingredients at a nearby plant into a finished product, he said.

This Uncle Sam plant is located on the east bank of the Mississippi River about six miles south of the Sunshine Bridge along La. 44, according to state Department of Environmental Quality records.