DuPont Hit with $1.3 Million Penalty for Multiple West Virginia Chemical Leaks

By | August 29, 2014

DuPont will pay a fine of $1.275 million to settle a federal complaint over eight chemical releases from a Kanawha County production facility, one of which killed a worker.

The Department of Justice and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the settlement resolves several alleged violations of federal law. The releases occurred between May 2006 and January 2010.

DuPont said the releases occurred at the Belle plant between 2006 and 2011. The settlement requires DuPont to make improvements to safety and emergency response to prevent future releases at the plant.

“Producing toxic and hazardous substances can be dangerous, and requires complying with environmental and safety laws,” said Cynthia Giles, head of the EPA’s enforcement office. “Today’s settlement with DuPont will ensure that the proper practices are in place to protect communities and nearby water bodies.”

DuPont estimates it spent more than $6.8 million to comply with an EPA order issued in March 2010 and take corrective actions related to the chemical releases.

Under Wednesday’s settlement, DuPont will spend an additional $2.3 million to train employees; improve the response to chemical release and notification of first responders and other agencies; and control risks to safety, health and the environmental during changes in chemical processes.

“We remain committed to meeting all regulatory requirements and operating at the highest standards for protection of our employees, contractors, community and the environment,” DuPont said in a written statement.

In 2010, a worker died from exposure to phosgene that leaked at the Belle plant. A report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said DuPont could have prevented the death of Carl Fish if it had built an enclosure around phosgene tanks.

Fish was taking readings when a hose failed, spraying his chest and face. The CSB report said workers were supposed to replace hoses on the phosgene tanks once a month, but the one that broke had been in service for seven months.

Phosgene was used as a chemical weapon during World War I. Today it is used as a building block in synthesis of pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds.

A day before the phosgene release, plant workers discovered more than 2,000 pounds of methyl chloride had leaked and employees failed to respond to alarms.

The next day, before the phosgene leak, workers discovered a leak in a pipe containing the toxic gas oleum, a highly corrosive form of sulfuric acid. As a result of the three releases, the EPA cited DuPont for numerous risk management violations.

The EPA identified five other incidents in which DuPont failed to report chemical releases to appropriate local, state and national response units in a timely manner, including the release of 80 tons of methanol into the Kanawha River in September 2010.

Topics Pollution Virginia Chemicals West Virginia

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