As you may have heard by now, a chemical spill at a Texas DuPont plant left four dead and another hospitalized last Saturday. This plant, in La Porte, Texas – a small city near Houston, manufacturers manufacturers a variety of products, including plastics, fertilizers, and insecticides. The cause of the DuPont leak has not been determined, the company says.
According to Reuters, “The workers were performing routine maintenance tasks at the company’s manufacturing facility in La Porte, Texas, when the chemical, methyl mercaptan, began to leak at around 4 a.m. Central Time (5 a.m. ET), spokesman Aaron Woods said.”
Methyl mercaptan is a flammable, naturally occurring compound, used to make fungicide and insecticides. While it is stored as a liquid, it becomes a gas when it contacts oxygen in the air. The gas is colorless, but it smells awful. The US Labor Department’s OSHA places the safe operating air concentration of just 10 parts-per-billion. This is a very low safety threshold, equivalent to about ten drops of water spread across over 13,000 gallons of water.
On Wednesday, the first wrongful death lawsuit was filed regarding this DuPont leak: “The widow of victim Gilbert Tisnado is seeking more than $1 million in a wrongful death suit against DuPont for Saturday’s leak pf 100 pounds of methyl mercaptan, the Houston Chronicle reported. Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the daughter of another victim is seeking a temporary restraining order that would compel DuPont to preserve all records and machinery linked to Saturday’s incident in Laporte, NBC station KPRC reported.” (NBC)
One local Houston news agency reported that “According to a preliminary coroner’s report, the four workers killed in a chemical leak at the DuPont plant near La Porte died from accidental asphyxiation. [ ] The industrial accident happened Saturday, killing brothers Gilbert Tisnado and Bobby Tisnado, Crystle Wise and Wade Baker”, but explain that “The full report has not yet been released.” (emphasis added)
As this story unfolds, both concerning the lawsuit and the investigation into the cause of the DuPont leak, we’ll update you here with everything you need to know.