The DuPont chemical plant where four workers died Nov. 15 after a leak caused an explosion has a history of safety violations that stretch back several years, the Texas Tribune discovered in a review of state records.
A faulty valve at the plant, which is located about 30 miles from Houston, caused a leak of an estimated 100 pounds of the chemical methyl mercaptan, the Texas Tribune reported. Methyl mercaptan is a component of Lannate, an insecticide made at the plant. It’s also a product commonly used to odorize natural gas for safety purposes, according to DuPont.
The plant was cited at least two dozen times for violating state law in the last five years by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, state records show. The most recent violations reported to the agency were in March after a gas vent opened and released 110 pounds of carbon monoxide and in August 2013 when malfunctioning equipment leaked 40 pounds of chlorine. Despite the violations, the TCEQ reports the plant is in satisfactory standing in terms of following state laws.
DuPont executives said in a statement that the company is working with local, state and federal authorities as they conduct an investigation into the incident. DuPont will conduct its own review of the incident.
The last major fatal chemical accident in Texas occurred in April 2013 when an ammonium nitrate explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant killed 15 people and injured more than 160. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the operator of the plant, Adair Grain, for 24 safety violations including unsafe handling and storage of chemicals.
In the wake of the explosion, OSHA, the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute launched an effort to reach out to more than 7,000 agricultural retailers, distributers, producers and other facilities in the fertilizer industry to encourage safe storing and handling of ammonium nitrate.