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May 10, 2012 7:02 AM by AP

Fiery flare from chemical plant cause accident

NORCO, La. (AP) - State environmental regulators say fire and smoke flaring up at the Shell Norco chemical plant were the result of a heater unit failure that forced a shutdown of a portion of the plant.

The eruption was visible from the Causeway Boulevard exit of Interstate 10, 25 miles away, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Jean Kelly says fence line monitoring at ground level by Shell officials Tuesday and additional monitoring Wednesday by DEQ indicated no elevated levels of chemicals in the air.

The Times-Picayune reports company officials said several chemicals, including benzene, ethylene, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxide and propylene were released. But Shell Norco spokeswoman Emily Oberton says there was no danger to the community.

Oberton says inclement weather caused the plant's mechanical problems.

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