DuPont will pay a fine of $724,000 imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to settle Clean Air Act violations relating to a fire and explosion at its chemical plant in Tonawanda, N.Y.
In the incident in November 2010, flammable vinyl fluoride that had seeped inside a 10,000 gallon process tank at the facility ignited, causing an explosion that killed one worker and badly burned another.
An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board concluded that hazards had been overlooked by DuPont. This was confirmed in a separate investigation by the EPA.
Exposure to vinyl fluoride can potentially cause cancer and other health risks.
“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 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.”
As part of the settlement, DuPont will spend $112,000 to purchase vapor and radiation detection equipment for the local fire department and to pay for training.
According to the EPA, since the fire and explosion DuPont has made approximately $6.8 million in chemical safety-related improvements at the Tonawanda facility.
These include upgrading its process to analyze potential vinyl fluoride hazards, and changing the configuration of equipment to reduce the chance of dangerous gas build-up. The company has also installed new controls and additional protective equipment, and improved processes and operating procedures at all of its facilities to avoid a similar incident.