US DuPont to pay $1.275m, improve safety to settle chem spill suit

27 August 2014 21:34 Source:ICIS News

(adds DuPont comments, paragraph 7)

HOUSTON (ICIS)--DuPont will pay a $1.275m penalty and take actions to prevent releases of harmful chemicals as part of a settlement for alleged Clean Air Act violations at its chemical plant in Belle, West Virginia, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Wednesday.

The alleged releases took place between May 2006 and January 2010, the EPA said.

Among the instances include two days in January 2010 when 2,000 lb (907 kg) of methyl chloride was found to have been released into the atmosphere after employees failed to respond to the alarm, when a leak in a pipe containing oleum gas was found and when a hose containing phosgene ruptured and resulted in the death of one worker.

In addition, EPA inspections discovered five instances when harmful amounts of substances were released but the proper agencies were not informed as required. The largest release was 80 tons (73 tonnes) of methanol into a nearby river in September 2010.

As part of the settlement, DuPont agreed to improve risk-operation procedures and its response to alarms triggered by releases. The company will also develop procedures to improve management of change process and to inform emergency responders of releases.

DuPont estimated that it will spend about $2.3m on the required improvements and that it had spent $6.8m on a previous corrective order related to the releases, the EPA said.

In a statement, DuPont said “We remain committed to meeting all regulatory requirements and operating at the highest standards for protection of our employees, contractors, community and the environment.” The company added that it will continue making improvements to select operating procedures.

By Jessie Waldheim