Thursday, August 28, 2014

DuPont fined $1.3 million for 2010 West Virginia chemical leaks that killed one employee

"DuPont Co. has agreed to pay nearly $1.3 million in fines to the Environmental Protection Agency to resolve violations the EPA cited after a string of 2010 chemical leaks, including one that killed a worker at the company’s plant in Belle (W.Va.)," Ken Ward reports for the Charleston Gazette. "The proposed deal, filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston, settles EPA allegations that DuPont violated provisions of federal air pollution, chemical management and public right-to-know laws and requires the Wilmington, Delaware-based chemical giant to implement a variety of environmental and workplace safety reforms."

An investigation was launched in January 2010 at DuPont’s Belle plant in Eastern Kanawha County "after a series of incidents that included a leak of toxic and flammable methyl chloride that went undetected by plant officials for nearly a week," Ward writes. Incidents included a plant employee dying after being sprayed with phosgene, a chemical building block that was used as a poison gas during World War I.

"EPA officials alleged that DuPont officials allowed one leak to go on for five days without taking action, ignored internal safety recommendations that could have prevented a second incident, and did not timely replace a worn-out hose used to transfer toxic phosgene gas in a fatal January 2010 incident," Ward writes. The final report found that the leaks were preventable and "caused by deficiencies in plant safety management systems related to maintenance and inspections, alarm recognition and management, accident investigations, emergency response and communications, and hazard recognition." (Read more)

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