Phosphene-Related Death in W. Virginia Results in EPA's Censure of DuPont

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company to review environmental safety procedures at its industrial plant in Belle, W. Va., where the release of phosgene gas in January led to the death of a DuPont employee.

The order results from an EPA inspection of the facility following three releases in January, including the release that caused the death. Based on EPA’s inspection and available information about the operation of the facility, EPA has determined that the facility has not satisfied Clean Air Act requirements that are designed to help prevent accidental releases and minimize the consequences of releases that do occur.

The alleged violations include failure to identify hazards that may result from releases using appropriate hazard assessment techniques; failure to design and maintain a safe facility; and failure to minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur.

EPA's order requires DuPont to, among other things, review all of the facility processes that may pose a threat of accidental releases, provide a report to EPA detailing the review, and implement any modifications to standard operating procedures that are warranted as a result of this review. The order provides that DuPont may request a conference with EPA concerning the alleged violations and requirements of the order.

The agency noted that throughout the on-going investigation it has coordinated with the Chemical Safety Board, OSHA, and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

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