DuPont plant in Texas where toxic fumes killed 4 people has history of violations
LA PORTE, Texas — State records show dozens of minor or moderate state environmental violations since 2009 at a Houston-area DuPont chemical plant where four people died from toxic fumes during the weekend.
The plant, however, which covers 600 acres along the Houston Ship Channel in LaPorte and has operated since 1956, has received a satisfactory rating from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, according to the agency’s records. The plant holds more than 150 environmental permits covering air, water and handling of hazardous material.
A team of investigators from the Chemical Safety Board began work at the plant Monday, two days after the four employees died in the release of methyl mercaptan — a chemical used in the manufacture of insecticide and fungicide, and used to provide odor to natural gas.
The toxic chemical, which is described as smelling like rotten eggs or rotten cabbage, causes eye and skin irritation, and rapidly affects the respiratory system.
It was not immediately clear what caused the chemical release.
“Our initial investigation plans are to examine the accident site, conduct initial interviews with witnesses, if any, as well as key operators and managers, and to request documentation on a range of relevant activities, such as maintenance histories of key equipment, training and work schedules,” Chemical Safety Board managing director Daniel Horowitz said.
DuPont said in a statement it is “working closely” with investigators and that the probe “will be extremely thorough and will take some time to complete.”
The state environmental agency records show instances of unauthorized emissions, improper equipment use, non-compliance with liquid waste rules and some paperwork violations. But records during the past five years show DuPont at La Porte, where about 320 people work, was not a repeat violator and achieved a satisfactory rating.