Deadly gas leak at LaPorte plant sends community, agencies looking for answers

In November, a toxic gas leak at a DuPont plant in LaPorte killed four workers. According to news reports, the plant does not have a perfect safety record, having amassed more than 50 safety violations in five years. Still, experts say that this kind of major error is rare for DuPont, and agencies are now trying to find out what happened.

Company officials have already released information indicating that the immediate cause of the leak was a valve that failed. DuPont has highly trained employees and highly developed safety systems, leaving many wondering how the four employees did not escape the fumes in time, and whether a lapse in company safety protocols may have caused the deaths.

The Washington Post asked residents in the community how they felt, and many were concerned. Although some have accepted the risk that goes along with living near a chemical plant, they also found the deaths unsettling and are asking for answers.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has sent a team of investigators to the plant, where they join investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and company investigators. No one knows when the investigation will be complete.

The chemical that was leaked, methyl mercaptan, is used by DuPont in the production of pesticides that are used to kill insects in farming and livestock operations.

By Mary Ellis LaGarde