EPA and DuPont Reach Major Settlement After Fatal Chemical Explosion in Tonawanda, N.Y.

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New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (DuPont) has agreed to pay a fine of $724,000 in settlement of Clean Air Act violations relating to a fire and explosion at its chemical plant in Tonawanda, N.Y.

In the settlement, DuPont will spend $112,000 to purchase vapor and radiation detection equipment for the local fire department and to pay for training. Since the fire and explosion that occurred on November 9, 2010, DuPont has made approximately $6.8 million in chemical safety-related improvements at the facility.

“EPA’s investigation of DuPont highlights the importance of preventing, preparing for and responding quickly to chemical releases and other incidents,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA’s Regional Administrator.
“It is imperative that DuPont and other businesses make protecting human health and the environment their top priority. The chemical explosion that happened at DuPont in Tonawanda must never happen again.”

The General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act requires companies to design and maintain safe facilities; and take all necessary measures to prevent air releases of regulated materials and extremely hazardous substances. Facilities must also minimize the consequences of accidental releases. The law also recognizes that owners and operators have primary responsibility in the prevention of chemical incidents.

According to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, on November 9, 2010, the ignition of flammable vinyl fluoride that had seeped inside a 10,000 gallon process tank at the DuPont facility resulted in an explosion that killed one worker and badly burned another. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board concluded that hazards had been overlooked by DuPont, which EPA’s investigation confirmed. Vinyl fluoride is used to make plastic products. Exposure to the substance can cause health risks, including potentially cancer.

The EPA identified several areas of the facility’s operations that had been in violation of the Clean Air Act, all of which were addressed by DuPont prior to the settlement. DuPont installed equipment and developed more stringent safety procedures to reduce the risk of a similar explosion; worked with the EPA, corrected its identified deficiencies; and has completed a number of chemical safety-related improvements at the facility, among other improvements.

The DuPont facility has:

  • Upgraded its process to analyze potential vinyl fluoride hazards
  • Taken actions to reduce the risks relating to vinyl fluoride vapors
  • Changed the configuration of the equipment to reduce the chance of dangerous gas build-up
  • Installed new controls and additional protective equipment
  • Improved vinyl fluoride monitoring
  • Improved processes and operating procedures at all of its facilities to avoid a similar vinyl fluoride incident

To view the Chemical Safety Board video and report on the DuPont explosion, visit:
http://www.csb.gov/e-i-dupont-de-nemours-co-fatal-hotwork-explosion/

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