Originally published November 26 2014
Four workers die from chemical leak at Texas DuPont plant with history of repeat violations
by Jennifer Lilley
(NaturalNews) Four people, including two brothers, recently died when a chemical leak at the Texas DuPont Chemical Refinery where they worked led to their inhalation of methyl mercaptan.(1,2)
The chemical, which is used to make insecticide for crops, is noted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as something which can "cause death by respiratory paralysis" since it "is an eye and respiratory tract irritant." Further description of methyl mercaptan by NOAA is as follows: "Can be absorbed through the skin. Has a sharp odor, but the sense of smell cannot be relied upon to warn of the presence of vapors at low concentrations."(3)
Thirty-eight-year-old Robert (Bobby) Tisnado and his 49-year-old brother Gilbert (Gibby) Tisnado died as a result of the leak, as did two other workers. It's been said that Gilbert, who was a husband, father and grandfather, ran back in the plant to help his brother Robert, who returned to the facility to help an employee he thought might have been hurt by the incident.
DuPont statement expresses sympathy, meanwhile has violated state environmental regulations over the yearsA statement dated November 17, 2014, which has been issued by the La Porte, TX, DuPont plant extends expressions of sympathy to family members and coworkers of the deceased, while making clear its efforts to provide a full investigation into the matter. The statement goes on to say that they are "working closely with local, state and federal authorities as they conduct a thorough investigation into the incident, which will take some time. As part of that investigation, we are conducting our own top-to-bottom review of this incident and we will share what we learn with the relevant authorities."(4)
What's disturbing, however, is that there have been incidents at the facility all along, incidents for which the plant has been fined by the state environmental agency over the years.
For example, state environmental agency records dating back to 2009 have cited the plant's improper use of equipment, non-compliance with liquid waste rules and unauthorized emissions. In 2012, the plant received a hefty $91,000 fine for an emissions violation.
Even more bothersome is the fact that, despite this, the plant has received a satisfactory rating from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Hopefully, this questionable matter is addressed as the investigation continues.(5)
Investigators on site, minimal details knownU.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigators began looking into the incident two days after it occurred, a timeframe necessary in order to ensure site entry safety, with managing director Daniel Horowitz saying that they will thoroughly assess the situation.
"Our initial investigation plans are to examine the accident site, conduct initial interviews with witnesses, if any, as well as key operators and managers, and to request documentation on a range of relevant activities, such as maintenance histories of key equipment, training and work schedules," he said.
So far, it's been noted that the leak and the deaths took place in an enclosed structure that was approximately five stories high and contained piping, valves and other equipment.
Mercaptan responsible for recent Pennsylvania inquiriesIn September 2014, Peco Energy Co. in Philadelphia, PA, addressed reports from thousands of customers who reported foul-smelling air. It was determined that, while there were no leaks, an elevated level of the mercaptan, which helps make natural gas detectable, was determined.
Peco spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez says that the odor, which did not result in any deaths or injuries, involved the two interstate pipeline systems that deliver gas to Peco.(6)
A similar incident, also involving Peco, occurred in the late 1980s, when an excess amount of mercaptan had been manually injected due to a faulty pipeline.
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