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CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-French court dismisses Lubrizol request for fire charges to be dropped

(Corrects headline to show Lubrizol sought charges be dropped, makes clear in text the case has not yet been sent to trial)

PARIS, June 30 (Reuters) - A French appeal court on Wednesday rejected a request by chemicals group Lubrizol to have judicial charges over a fire at a plant in Rouen quashed because of alleged irregularities in the investigation, a lawyer for the company said.

The French unit of Lubrizol, which is owned by U.S. billionaire investor Warren Buffet, faces charges of pollution and safety failings that resulted in serious harm to the environment.

Lubrizol had argued there were irregularities in the initial investigation conducted by the Regional Directorate for the Environment, Planning and Housing. Its lawyer Benedicte Graulle said the company took note of the ruling.

Some 9,500 tonnes of chemicals were burned during the blaze at the lubricants plant in September, 2019.

Lubrizol’s French unit is under formal investigation, meaning there is “serious or consistent evidence” that points to probable involvement of a suspect in a crime. It is a step toward a trial, but many investigations may be dropped without going to court.

The plant was designated a ‘Seveso’ site, meaning there was a risk from the chemicals it developed.

Locals complained that a noxious smell hung over the city after the day-long inferno, leading to headaches and nausea.

Soot fell on towns miles away, schools were closed, harvesting was suspended and farmers had to pour away thousands of gallons of milk. (Reporting by Tangi Salaun; Editing by Richard Lough; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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