May 1, 2023 — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of texas has ordered DuPont to pay $16 million after 4 employees died from a deadly gas leak at a chemical plant in La Porte.
The gas leak occurred at a pesticide manufacturing facility. It involved methyl mercaptan, a highly-toxic and flammable chemical that is used to make a pesticide called Lannate.
When employees tried to remove a blockage in the system, a large amount of methyl mercaptan gas flowed into a waste gas system.
Another employee opened valves on the waste gas system, not realizing that it contained methyl mercaptan. This resulted in a release of approximately 24,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan into the air.
Four employees died and other DuPont employees were injured after breathing the gas. The gas also drifted downwind into the city of Deer Park and surrounding areas.
Eight years later, DuPont pleaded guilty and was sentenced for criminal negligence in connection with the accident.
Officials blamed the accident on employees who disregarded safety procedures. Furthermore, Kenneth Sandel, unit operations leader, “should have known operators did not have a safe and effective way to drain the vent system and should have prevented it from happening,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal ordered DuPont to pay a $12 million fine. DuPont will also donate $4 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund air quality projects around Galveston Bay.
DuPont must also serve two years of probation, during which time the company must give the U.S. Probation Office full access to all of its operating locations. Sandel also must serve one year of probation.
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