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DuPont Restarting Production at Belle, WV

2:04 PM MST | March 3, 2010 | Rebecca Coons

DuPont says it has restarted most of the units at its Belle, WV chemical complex that were not involved in recent accidents, including a phosgene release that killed a worker in January.  The company also lifted a voluntary “safety stand-down” it instituted shortly after the fatal accident.

The phosgene release followed two other incidents, including an ongoing release of chloromethane from the plant’s Hexazinone unit, which went undetected for several days, and a release of sulfur dioxide from a spent sulfuric acid unit, says the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB; Washington), which launched an investigation into the fatal accident. DuPont officials told the CSB that a braided steel hose connected to a one-ton capacity phosgene tank suddenly ruptured, releasing phosgene into the air and killing Dan Fish, a DuPont employee for 32 years.

DuPont also announced that the sulfur acid recovery (SAR) unit it operates with Lucite International at the Belle site will not restart, citing an earlier settlement agreement with EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice and the state to permanently idle the unit by the end of this month. The complaint alleged DuPont and Lucite violated the Clean Air Act by  making modifications in 1996 without first obtaining pre-construction permits and installing required pollution control equipment. DuPont says it will transfer employees from the SAR unit to other openings at the Belle site.

DuPont produces several products at Belle, including dimethyl sulfate, dimethyl ether, methyl amines, glycolic acid, and several crop-protection intermediate chemicals.

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