EH&S Insider Blog

4 Killed: Gas Leak at Texas Chemical Plant


Four workers were killed Saturday morning around 4 A.M. after a chemical leak at the DuPont plant in La Porte, Texas. A fifth work was exposed and hospitalized. The DuPont La Porte plant has approximately 320 employees.

The leaked chemical, methyl mercaptan, is used to create crop protection products such as insecticides according to DuPont. 

The Chemical Safety Board's investigation into the tragic accident got underway November 17th at 8 AM. Seven members of the eight-member team met with company and local union representatives to map out the direction of the CSB investigation. This took place in a company building conference room at the facility.   
Subsequently, investigators began interviews of several DuPont personnel, with plans being made to interview shift workers and other possible witnesses to the events that led to a release of highly toxic methyl mercaptan, exposure to which killed four workers early Saturday morning. Those interviews were continuing this afternoon.
The CSB is coordinating the worker interviews with the help of International Chemical Workers Union Council representatives.   
The team has not yet been able to access the area where the leak and the deaths occurred, described by Investigator Banks as an approximately 5-stories high enclosed structure with piping, valves and other equipment.
Mr. Banks said, "DuPont is taking steps to assure the area is safe to access. We will be evaluating that process and when we determine it is safe for our team members to document the site we will enter. We don't know how soon that will be. We have asked the company to preserve the status of the process, valve and other equipment settings as close as possible to where they were at the time of the accident to aid in our investigation."
He continued, "At this point, obviously it is too soon for us to be able to determine the immediate cause of this accident. We will release information to the public as soon as confirmed findings are known."
Investigators are preparing document requests which typically concern maintenance schedules, operator training, equipment histories, hazard analyses and other information critical to determining the root cause of the accident. 
Topics: News and Regulatory Alerts