- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Federal records show 34 accidents involving the release of toxic compounds have occurred at DuPont plants nationwide since 2007 and at least eight fatalities.

The findings come a month after four workers died at the Delaware-based company’s La Porte plant, southeast of Houston. The four were exposed to leaking methyl mercaptan, which is used in the manufacture of insecticide and fungicide.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are investigating. DuPont spokesman Aaron Woods said the company is committed to operating its sites in a safe and responsible manner.

The Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1yHQUd6 ) reviewed public records and found that three incidents involving toxic releases and non-fatal injuries have occurred at the Texas plant between 2007 and 2012.

The last time OSHA investigated an incident involving a worker at the plant was in 2007, when a toxic release forced 7,800 students and more than 1,000 school employees to “shelter in place.” OSHA records show DuPont paid a $1,800 fine for violating rules designed for companies that handle toxics.

The 2007 OSHA inspection report is unavailable because it was disposed as part of the office’s records management policy, agency spokeswoman Diana Petterson said.

It’s unclear whether any agency investigated the other two incidents, in 2011 and 2012, the newspaper reported. Risk management reports show the company handled the response internally and didn’t alert outside authorities.

State environmental records also point to pollution problems at the plant.

Earlier this year, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality said in an administrative order that an incinerator that processed waste gases from the unit had been releasing excessive pollutant amounts since December 2011. It said in one of those incidents, emissions lasted more than 30 minutes.

The state commission argued the incident could’ve been avoided with “better operation and maintenance practices.” DuPont denied the commission’s claims but agreed to pay a nearly $92,000 fine and for upgrades. Neither the commission nor DuPont alerted OSHA.

David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor, said state and federal environmental and workplace safety agencies don’t always exchange information about incidents at plants that handle toxics.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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