DuPont has been ordered to pay $16 million after a gas leak at a chemical plant in La Porte, Texas killed 4 employees, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
On November 15, 2014, approximately 24,000 pounds of a highly-toxic gas called methyl mercaptan were released into the air.
Four employees were killed, other DuPont employees were injured, and the chemical traveled downwind into the city of Deer Park and beyond.
The deadly accident occurred when an employee accidentally left open a valve, which blocked the flow of liquid methyl mercaptan into a pesticide-manufacturing process.
In the process of removing the blockage, a large amount of methyl mercaptan gas flowed into a waste gas system. When another employee opened valves on the waste gas system, there was a massive release of methyl mercaptan into the air.
According to federal prosecutors, DuPont employees disregarded safety procedures, and the unit operations leader, Kenneth Sandel, “should have known operators did not have a safe and effective way to drain the vent system and should have prevented it from happening.”
U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ordered DuPont to pay a $12 million penalty and give the U.S. Probation Office full access to all of its operating locations for two years.
The judge also ordered Sandel to serve one year of probation.
DuPont will also donate an additional $4 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects that benefit air quality in and around the western shores of Galveston Bay.