DuPont to Pay $1.2 Million to Settle West Virginia Air Pollution Charges

E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company will pay a $1.75 million civil penalty to settle charges that it released harmful levels of hazardous substances at its Belle, West Virginia facility.

Several of the releases posed significant risk to people or the Kanawha River.

One DuPont worker died after exposure to phosgene, a toxic gas released due to DuPont’s failure to comply with industry accident prevention procedures.

DuPont will pay a $1.275 million penalty and will take corrective actions to prevent future releases to resolve the alleged violations of the general duty clause and risk management provisions of federal anti pollution laws.

Under the agreement, DuPont will implement enhanced risk management operating procedures to improve its process of responding to alarms triggered by releases of hazardous substances.

DuPont will also develop an enhanced operating procedure to improve its management of change process, which is a best practice used to ensure that safety, health and environmental risks are controlled when a company makes changes to their processes.

DuPont will improve procedures so federal, state, and local responders are notified of emergency releases, and will conduct training exercises to prepare employees to make such notifications.

DuPont estimates that it will spend approximately $2,276,000 to complete the required improvements to its safety and emergency response processes.

Previously, on March 18, 2010, the U.S. EPA issued an administrative order to DuPont to undertake corrective measures related to the releases.  DuPont estimates that it has spent approximately $6,828,750 to comply with the administrative order.

On Jan. 22, 2010, at DuPont’s chemical manufacturing plant in Belle, West Virginia operators discovered that more than 2,000 pounds of methyl chloride had leaked into the atmosphere and employees failed to respond to alarms triggered by the release.

On the morning of January 23, workers discovered a leak in a pipe containing the toxic gas oleum.  Later that day, a hose containing phosgene, a highly toxic gas, ruptured resulting in the fatality of a worker exposed to phosgene.

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