DuPont plant leaks 160,000 lb methanol in US river

23 September 2010 17:50  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A leak at DuPont's Belle plant in Charleston, West Virginia, discharged 160,000 lb (72.6 tonnes) of methanol into the Kanawha River earlier this week, officials said on Thursday.

State and DuPont officials said the leak was not considered harmful to the public because of its size - about 26,600 gal (101,000 litres) - and also due to methanol's chemical makeup.

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is commonly used as antifreeze or a solvent.

Jimmy Gianato, West Virginia director of homeland security and emergency management, said he doubted the leak would have any adverse public impact.

"Methanol's very soluble in water, and the alcohol will be pretty much absorbed in the river," Gianato said. "To my knowledge there's been no reports of fish kills or anyone being injured."

DuPont spokesman David Hastings issued a statement saying the leak was discovered late on 21 September by employees conducting routine sampling of the plant's water outfall.

The workers found a methanol leak in a heat exchanger in the methylamines unit and saw that it had travelled through the unit's steam system and had been discharged into the river, the DuPont statement said.

Methylamine, a colourless gas and a derivative of ammonia, is sold industrially in pressurised railcars and tank trailers. It has refining applications, and is also used in pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

The Kanawha is West Virginia's largest river.

DuPont employees stopped the leak on Tuesday night and notified regulators. The company and state officials said there have been no injuries from the incident and no indications of impact to the community.

DuPont is continuing to investigate the incident to determine the actual amount of the release and when it occurred.

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By: Lane Kelley
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