DuPont to pay $1.275 million fine, spend at least $3 million mor - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

DuPont to pay $1.275 million fine, spend at least $3 million more to correct problems at Belle, WV plant

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E.I. duPont de Nemours & Company will pay a $1.275 million fine and take corrective actions at its Belle, West Virginia plant for releasing harmful levels of hazardous substances on eight occasions between May 2006 and January 2010.

In announcing the settlement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice said several of the releases posed a significant risk to the public or the Kanawha River. A DuPont worker died after exposure to phosgene, a toxic gas the government said was released due to DuPont's failure to comply with industry accident prevention procedures.

“Failing to follow laws meant to prevent accidents can have fatal consequences – as was tragically the case here,” said Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. “(The) settlement holds DuPont accountable for its failure to prevent hazardous releases and requires improvements to its risk management operations and emergency response systems that

Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said producing toxic and hazardous substances “can be dangerous, and requires complying with environmental and safety laws.”

“(The) settlement with DuPont will ensure that the proper practices are in place to protect communities and nearby water bodies,” she said.

As part of the settlement, 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.

In addition, 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 roughly $2.3 million to complete the required improvements to its safety and emergency response processes.

USEPA had issued an administrative order to DuPont in March 2010 to undertake corrective measures related to the releases. DuPont estimates that it has spent nearly $7 million to comply with the administrative order.

Operators at DuPont's chemical manufacturing plant in Belle discovered in January 2010 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. Workers discovered a leak in a pipe containing the toxic gas oleum on Jan. 23, 2010, and later that day, a hose containing phosgene, a highly toxic gas, ruptured, killing one worker.

The alleged risk management violations on Jan. 22 and 23 include failing to identify hazards that may result from accidental releases; failing to design and maintain a safe facility; failing to minimize consequences of accidental releases that do occur; failing to follow recognized industry safety practices; failure to train employees on how to respond to potential risks; failure to frequently inspect and test equipment consistent with good engineering practices and manufacturer recommendations; failure to follow the company's own procedures for responding to alarms indicating potential problems and implementing safety protocol for the phosgene process.

Five other incidents were identified through EPA inspections and reviews of DuPont records, including allegations the company released harmful quantities of hazardous substances but did not report the discharges to the National Response Center, State Emergency Response Commission and Local Emergency Planning Committee in a timely manner. The largest of these was the release of 80 tons of methanol into the Kanawha River on September 21, 2010.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

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