23,000 Pounds of Toxic Chemical Led to 4 Deaths at Texas Plant

December 1, 2014

Chemical manufacturer DuPont has reported that about 23,000 pounds of a flammable toxic chemical escaped in the building where four of its workers died two weeks ago at a Houston-area plant.

DuPont disclosed in a news release the quantity of the methyl mercaptan that led to the deaths Nov. 15, but the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday that the company declined to release a more detailed report of its findings that were delivered to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The commission was closed on Friday, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Medical examiners say the foul-smelling chemical, used in production of pesticides, caused the asphyxiation deaths of the four workers.

Officials have said a faulty valve may be responsible for the fatal chemical release at the DuPont plant along the Houston Ship Channel in La Porte. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is continuing its investigation.

Killed were Crystle Rae Wise, 53; Wade Baker, 60; Gilbert Tisnado, 48, and brother Robert Tisnado, 39.

The pesticide plant had dozens of minor or moderate state environmental violations, according to state records.

The incident is the worst loss of life in an industrial accident at the world’s biggest petrochemical complex since 2005, when a refinery explosion killed 15 workers in Texas City.

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