Advisory committees Federal agencies

Repeat of recent DuPont incident ‘can happen anywhere,’ CSB chairman warns


Washington – A deadly incident at a DuPont chemical plant in Texas in November is the latest example of “a lack of safe design requirements and risk reduction targets,” Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said at a Senate hearing on Dec. 11.

Moure-Eraso submitted written testimony during a joint hearing conducted by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He said CSB’s preliminary investigation indicated several failures that contributed to a release of methyl mercaptan, a toxic liquid that killed four workers Nov. 15 at the company’s plant in LaPorte, TX.

“If it can happen at DuPont, I would submit it can happen anywhere,” Moure-Eraso said in the written testimony.

Moure-Eraso told the committee that a clogged pipe leading from the methyl mercaptan storage tank preceded the incident. Workers were not required to wear respirators while performing potentially hazardous tasks, he said.

“We found that this vent system had a history of periodic issues with unwanted liquid buildup, and the valve in question was typically drained directly into the work area inside the building, rather than into a closed system,” Moure-Eraso said.