DuPont US glycolic acid plant shuts after leaks, worker death

25 January 2010 16:44  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A worker died over the weekend from phosgene exposure at DuPont’s glycolic acid plant in Belle, West Virginia, as three leaks in two days led to the shutdown of nearly all units in the plant, the US producer said on Monday.

Carl Fish died on Sunday evening after he was exposed to phosgene from a leaking transfer hose, DuPont said. Fish, an operator at the Belle site, had worked with DuPont for 32 years and was part of the site's emergency response team, the company said.

The phosgene death followed a methyl chloride leak on Friday and a sulphuric acid leak on Saturday morning, according to local media reports.

That has resulted in the plant being put on a "voluntary safety stand down” since Saturday, meaning production will be halted in "essentially all units" until inspections deem them safe, company spokesman Nate Pepper said. Reports indicated the shut down could last two weeks, but Pepper said the company had no set timeline.

"Our only concern is making certain the site is safe," Pepper said.

On its website, DuPont describes the Belle facility as the world’s largest glycolic acid plant. Glycolic acid is used in plastics manufacturing, home and personal care products, crop protection chemicals, automotive products and industrial manufacturing.

The facility is owned by Lucite but operated by DuPont. Last year, DuPont and Lucite had to pay a $2m (€1.42m) civil penalty to resolve Clean Air Act violations at a sulphuric acid unit of the plant, along with agreeing to shut down the unit by 1 April.

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said it was concerned about the reported incidents and would be contacting DuPont to gather more information as it considers launching an investigation, spokesman Daniel Horowitz told the Charleston Gazette.

($1 = €0.71)

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By: Ben DuBose
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