CSB Investigates Accidents at DuPont Chemical Facility

A chemical hose that leaked phosgene and fatally poisoned DuPont Belle plant worker Carl “Danny” Fish showed signs of "fraying" and "wear," CSB investigators said recently.

“We intend to closely examine this hose as we move forward,” said Johnnie Banks, CSB lead investigator, during a media briefing Jan. 28 at a Charleston hotel.

The CSB began its investigation of the recent accidents at the DuPont chemical complex in Belle, W. Va., following the death of Fish on Jan. 24.

Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward Jr.’s blog, Sustained Outrage, provides up-to-date information on CSB’s investigation of the DuPont Belle plant.

DuPont officials told the CSB that a braided steel hose connected to a 1-ton capacity phosgene tank suddenly ruptured, releasing phosgene into the air. Fish was exposed to the chemical was transported to the hospital, where he died the following day.

The phosgene release followed two other accidents at the same plant the same week, including an ongoing release of chloromethane from the plant’s Hexazinone unit, which went undetected for several days, and a release from a spent sulfuric acid unit. The plant announced over the weekend that it would be shutting down a number of process units immediately for safety checks.

Speaking for the three-member board, member William E. Wright said, “The Board is concerned by these releases, which had tragic consequences, and will proceed with an investigation to understand why these unfortunate events occurred.”

Wright cautioned that the new case would likely delay efforts to complete other investigations that are being conducted by same investigative team, including those at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, W. Va., and an Ohio environmental services company. Including DuPont, the CSB has 17 open investigations, the largest number in its 11-year history.

In voting to approve the investigation, the Board noted that the CSB was aware of six other releases from the plant since December 2006. The DuPont Belle complex is a large facility that is regulated under the EPA Risk Management Program and the OSHA Process Safety Management standard because of the volume and hazards of the materials it handles and the potential risk to workers and the community.

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