Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

CHEMICAL PLANT SAFETY ; Board Warns `Serious Situation' at Plants

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

CHEMICAL PLANT SAFETY ; Board Warns `Serious Situation' at Plants

Article excerpt

U.S. Chemical Safety Board members warned Wednesday of a "very serious situation at DuPont following the release of new information about a chemical leak that killed four workers last November in Texas and amid the spinoff of dozens of DuPont operations - including two in West Virginia - to a new company called Chemours. "This situation is deeply troubling, said acting board Chairman Rick Engler, after agency investigators briefed board members on previously confidential recommendations about the DuPont facility in La Porte, Texas, where a leak of toxic methyl mercaptan at DuPont's insecticide and fungicide unit killed four workers on Nov. 15, 2014.

Engler noted that it's not clear how regulatory agencies or the CSB - which doesn't regulate, but makes safety recommendations - would deal with any implications of company-wide DuPont safety issues when the chemical giant has moved three dozen of its facilities to a new corporation. In West Virginia, the spinoff to Chemours includes DuPont's Belle plant and half of its Parkersburg plant.

Two weeks ago, when the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration labeled DuPont as "severe violator of workplace safety rules, OSHA officials said they were not sure how additional inspections that designation brings with it would apply to the newly spun-off Chemours properties.

CSB officials more than four years ago were expressing concerns about DuPont's corporate-wide safety practices, but at the time did not make formal recommendations that were that broad when they issued a report on three January 2010 leaks, including one that resulted in one worker death, at the Belle plant.

During a meeting Wednesday in Washington, D.C., the board heard from its investigators who are continuing to look into the La Porte leak.

Among other things, board members were told that CSB staff in June gave DuPont a set of urgent recommendations - including suggesting a "comprehensive safety and design review - before DuPont's planned restart of its crop-protection unit in August. …

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