Jan. 24, 2010
DuPont Voluntarily Shuts Plant Following More Emissions
By Tony Rutherford
Huntingtonnews.net Reporter
Charleston, WV (HNN) – First, approximately 1,900 pounds of methyl chloride vapors escaped from the DuPont plant at Belle, WV over a five-day period. On Saturday morning, Jan. 23, 2010, sulfuric acid leaked and later an employee was hospitalized following exposure to phosgene, a chemical used in World War I to kill soldiers on the battlefield.
Currently, phosgene is used in the manufacture of plastics and pesticides. According to the CDC: “Phosgene was used extensively during World War I as a choking (pulmonary) agent. Among the chemicals used in the war, phosgene was responsible for the large majority of deaths.”
Phosgene had a direct impact during the 1980’s Bhopal disaster. At that time, the chemical process (“route”) at the India plant reacted methylamine with phosgene to form MIC (methyl isocyanate), which was then reacted with 1-naphthol to form the final product, carbaryl.
Exposure to phosgene may cause delayed effects that may not be apparent for up to 48 hours after exposure, even if the person feels better or appears well following removal from exposure. Therefore, people who have been exposed to phosgene should be monitored for 48 hours afterward.
Following the leaks, DuPont officials have stopped production at the plant, placing it on a “safety pause” to determine what caused three leaks in three different sections of the facility in the last two days.
Plant officials have stated that “less than 20 pounds” of sulfuric acid” leaked. The fume alarm sounded at about 7:45 a.m. Saturday with an all clear about 45 minutes later.
A meeting with county commissioners is scheduled on Sunday. The county has praised DuPont’s proactive response, which follows a protocol put into effect after the Bayer accident in 2008.
But, in April, DuPont and Lucite International paid $2 million in federal fines for not upgrading pollution-control devices when they added equipment to increase production at a sulfuric acid plant that is part of the Belle facility.
And in July 2009, Kanawha County Commissioner Carper criticized DuPont after company officials waited two days to report to local authorities a leak of sulfur trioxide from the Belle plant.

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