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DuPont Plant Accident Claims 4 Lives

Four workers died from exposure to toxic gasses after a DuPont plant accident south of Houston. The workers were exposed to methyl mercaptan, a chemical used in insecticides. The fatalities in the DuPont plant accident included two brothers, a crew supervisor and a female colleague. Preliminary reports stated that none of the workers were wearing gas masks or other protective gear. Representatives for the chemical company, the plant’s workers’ union, and federal worker safety agencies announced that they would thoroughly investigate the incident.

Details of the DuPont Plant Accident

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the DuPont plant accident started when an unidentified female plant worker called for help after noticing a problem with a chemical feeder line. Two of her colleagues, crew supervisor Wade Baker and plant worker Robert Tisnado, responded to the call and were overwhelmed by a toxic cloud. Board operator Gilbert Tisnado, Jr., Robert’s older brother, attempted to contact them by radio. When none of the three responded, Gilbert grabbed a gas mask and tried to help Robert. Gilbert was also overcome by the toxic chemicals and died at the scene.

Gas in DuPont Plant Accident Found at Other Sites

Methyl mercaptan, the toxic gas that contributed to the DuPont plant accident, has also been the cause of safety and environmental incidents at chemical plants around the country. An incident similar to that of the DuPont plant accident occurred in nearby Texas City in 2011. A refinery owned by BP released numerous chemicals, including methyl mercaptan, leading to the evacuation of a nearby chemical plant. A fatal incident involving methyl mercaptan happened in Michigan in July 2001. A rail car carrying the chemical leaked and ignited, causing an explosion that killed three workers and forced 2,000 residents to evacuate their homes.

DuPont Plant Accident Latest Safety Incident

The most recent DuPont plant accident was only the latest in a string of safety and environmental issues related to the plant, according to the Houston Chronicle report. The facility has been fined six times, with a seventh ruling pending, by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Federal agencies have also targeted the site of the DuPont plant accident. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the plant to reduce its emissions in April 2014. In 2007, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the plant for its unsafe handling of dangerous chemicals.

Reactions to DuPont Plant Accident

Residents and former workers had differing reactions to the DuPont plant accident. Gilbert Tisnado, Sr., the father of two of the workers who died in the DuPont plant accident and a former plant worker himself, told the Chronicle, “you never know if you are going to come back home” when working in such a facility. Rock Owens, who handles environmental cases for the Harris County Attorney’s Office, told reporters that the “potential toxicity” of methyl mercaptan “might be a little underrated” and that “it is not an innocuous substance.”

Source: Houston Chronicle

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