On June 29, John O’Conner took over the DuPont Chemical Plant in La Porte, Texas. He is the 5th to take over in the past 6 years, following a string of DuPont accidents. The most recent accident was the December tank spill, and the most notable accident was the gas release that killed four last November at its Lannete Unit in La Porte.
At the Lannete Unit, 23,000 pounds of the chemical gas Methyl Mercapton leaked into the facility, which in large dosages is a depressant to the central nervous system and causes respiratory paralysis. This leak resulted in four deaths: an operator, a supervisor, and two brothers who tried to save their lives. The Labor for Occupational Safety and Health group (OHSA) has placed DuPont on its list of “Severe Violators.” The Chemical Safety Board, an independent government organization, held a follow up investigation. Their probe showed that aside from obvious safety flaws throughout the facility, such as no chemical warning system and vent fans being broken for months, the making of the Lannete pesticide had many design flaws. One such flaw was that there was no safe way to clear blocked chemicals without opening up the pipes manually and releasing the colorless chemical into air. The investigation is currently ongoing.
While the plant is shut down until safety regulations are met, the billion dollar DuPont company is fighting the $99,000 fine. This sum is in regards to the initial leak, which reflects the total in fines for the four fatalities and safety violations. Additionally, the Chemical Safety Board fined DuPont $230,000 for the “willful, repeated, and serious” violations they have found so far in their investigation, such as repeated violation of their air quality permit. DuPont is fighting these charges and is attempting to modify their safety permits to make them even less stringent.