Early Saturday morning on November 15, a serious chemical leak at a DuPont plant in La Porte, Texas left four workers dead and another employee critically injured. According to reports from safety officials and emergency personnel, the workers had been responding to reports of a leak when they were overcome. The leak involved methyl mercaptan, a chemical used to produce the discernable "rotten egg" smell in natural gas, making leaks more noticeable. It is also used in the production of insecticide and pesticides.
The leak, which began around 4:00 am southeast of Houston, was contained shortly after 6:00 am. After local residents began reporting a strange odor – stronger than its usual presence – DuPont released a statement that the plant does not currently pose a risk to the public.
A History of Safety Concerns
While this story is a tragedy for the victims and families affected, it also helps to highlight the ever-present dangers at industrial plants, as well as the need for industrial companies to make safety a priority. Shortly after the explosion, news came to light that DuPont has had a series of previous safety concerns, including:
- Four incidents investigated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board since 2010 at DuPont facilities.
- Investigations into two worker fatalities at two different facilities.
- The U.S. Chemical Safety Board noted a "series of preventable shortcomings" at a West Virginia DuPont facility which contributed to 2010 worker fatality.
- A 2010 explosion incident at a New York facility that killed one worker. Federal investigators noted DuPont's failure to monitor flammable gas levels prior to the explosion.
- The EPA cited and fined the DuPont LaPorte facility for hazardous waste management and air-emissions violations in 2012 and 2014.
Although Saturday's chemical leak is still being investigated by state and federal regulators, officials have announced that a leaky valve may be at least partially to blame. Investigators will also be looking into safety processes at the 600-acre DuPont facility to determine if the accident – and subsequent injuries and deaths – could have been prevented. The plant employs nearly 500 full-time workers, according to recent reports from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
At Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs, our experienced Houston trial lawyers have represented many victims and families harmed by the negligence of industrial companies and large corporations. Our work handling high-profile cases – including a recent case against BP – has helped secure fair compensation for our clients, and has helped reiterate the fact that corporations need to play by the rules and make safety a priority.
If you have questions about chemical leaks or your rights after an industrial accident, contact our firm today.