First reported early this morning, a chemical leak at a DuPont plant La Porte, Texas has killed four workers and injured a fifth. Five employees of a DuPont plant were initially taken the hospital with injuries from a leak. Today, four of those workers have died, leaving a fifth in critical condition, but expected to recover. The workers were exposed to methyl mercaptan, a chemical used in natural gas, fungicides, and insecticides. The cause of the leak is currently unknown, but Randall Clements, the plant manager, confirmed the incident was under investigation.
Issuing a statement on behalf of Dupont, Clements expressed his “concern and sympathy” for the deceased. He has said the company is in “close touch” with the extended families of the employees and are providing “every measure of support and assistance at this time.” Rather than focusing on what caused the leak, Clements said he would prefer to give his attention to the family members of the employees. Information on the cause of the leakage will be made available as the investigation unfolds.
The leak that killed four workers happened in the early morning hours in Southeast Houston at 4am CST. It was contained by 6am. Residents in the area report smelling a strange odor, but this is not unusual for that area as LaPorte is home to many chemical manufacturers, oil refineries, factories, and plants. DuPont maintains the chemical leak that killed four does not pose a risk to the public in that Texas area. Emergency responders were dispatched to the scene and monitored the air for any dangerous levels of the chemical. They decided that an order to stay indoors or evacuate was not warranted at this time.
Clements said the company is cooperating with all state and federal officials as they try to figure out what happened. They are also conducting their own investigation in a top-to-bottom review. They will share what they find with the proper authorities.
The five workers were responding to reports of a leaking valve. The county medical examiner was able to confirm that the four employees were killed, but not their cause of death.
In April of last year, a fertilizer plant in West Texas exploded, releasing hazardous levels of ammonia in the air. In the town north of Waco, 15 people died and more than 160 people were injured. Jeff Tobola, a resident near the plant just happened to be recording when the plant exploded. The explosion was so strong, it registered on the Richter scale. Seismographs in Amarillo, Texas documented the shock waves more than 400 miles away. The blast was so powerful, it felt like a small earthquake. Residents in the small town said they felt the force within their bones.
Today’s DuPont chemical leak brings to mind last year’s deadly explosion which leveled parts of the town and killed more than four. There are currently no laws in Texas that regulate the storage of chemicals. While the Environmental Protection Agency is in place to prevent such catastrophes, Texas has a strong conservative culture of limited regulation and government interference.
By Didi Anofienem
Photo By: Pete – Flickr License