An early morning chemical leak Nov. 15 at a DuPont facility in La Porte, Tex., near Houston, has killed four workers. Local news station KHOU is reporting that a fifth worker also was exposed but was rushed to a local hospital and is expected to recover.
The workers were exposed at approximately 4 a.m. to methyl mercaptan, which is used in insecticides and fungicides and also is added to natural gas to odorize it for safety purposes. Local residents reported smelling something before the leak was discovered, but DuPont representatives informed local authorities that the chemical dissipates quickly in air and does not pose a health risk for the surrounding community. Some 300 employees work in the facility, and at times they were directed to take shelter during the day.
"There are no words to fully express the loss we feel or the concern and sympathy we extend to the families of the employees and their co-workers," said Randall Clements, the plant manager of the DuPont La Porte facility during a press conference. "We are in close touch with them and we are providing them every measure of support and assistance at this time."
DuPont is cooperating with local, state and federal authorities as they conduct a thorough investigation into the incident. "As part of that investigation, we are conducting our own top-to-bottom review of this incident and we will share what we learn with the relevant authorities," he added.
"The release was contained, and it appears at this point that several of the employees were responding to a leak in a valve. Fortunately, the leak at no time posed a danger to the community outside our facility," said Clements.