Montana News

Apr 14, 2012 3:14 PM by KTVQ (Billings)

CHS Refinery dust plume sends Laurel students indoors

Some Laurel kindergarten students were rushed in from recess Friday afternoon, when a teacher noticed a dark cloud heading straight toward the school's playground.

It turned out to be a discharge of coker dust from the Laurel CHS refinery and in short order, CHS dispatched clean up crews to begin clean up at Laurel's South Elementary School and at the pond at Lions' Park.

School administration sent kids home who may have been exposed to the dust.

Cenex Harvest States officials explained that during a process of refining asphalt into gasoline and diesel, its coker drum ruptured and the residual dust went across Interstate 90 to the South Elementary school and Lion's pond.

The incident happened around 2 p.m. on Friday and a city of Laurel street sweeper helped with the cleanup around the school's playground and parking lot.

Some of the coke dust made it to the pond at Lion's Park, where as many as 30 Cenex workers scrambled to clean up the dust that landed on the pond and was blown to the shore.

Tim Bohnet, engineering manager at Cenex, tells Montana's News Station that the dust is not a hazard. Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Duane Winslow says the dust does not have a lot of health concerns.

Cenex will pay for dry cleaning clothes exposed to dust and the company has set up a hotline for anyone who may have any questions at (406) 628.5343.

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