DuPont to pay $1.3 million for W.Va. chemical spills

Chemical manufacturer DuPont has agreed to pay $1.3 million in federal fines to settle charges from eight alleged releases of hazardous substances in West Virginia.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department said DuPont’s Belle, W.Va., facility released the toxic gases phosgene, methyl chloride and oleum between 2006 and 2010. One DuPont worker, Danny Fish, died in 2010 as a result of exposure to phosgene, which has been used as a chemical weapon.

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The federal government charged DuPont with violating the Clean Air Act, along with environmental response and emergency planning laws.

“Producing toxic and hazardous substances can be dangerous, and requires complying with environmental and safety laws,” Cynthia Giles, EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement, said in a Wednesday statement.

“Today's settlement with DuPont will ensure that the proper practices are in place to protect communities and nearby water bodies,” she said.

“Today’s settlement holds DuPont accountable for its failure to prevent hazardous releases and requires improvements to its risk management operations and emergency response systems that could prevent future tragedies and damage to the environment,” Sam Hirsch, the Justice Department’s top environmental attorney, said in the statement.

DuPont did not admit to the charges.

In addition to the fine, DuPont agreed to improve its management processes to reduce health and environmental risks, which it estimates will cost millions of dollars. Shortly after the 2010 incidents, it spent $6.8 million to implement federally mandated corrective measures.

“We remain committed to meeting all regulatory requirements and operating at the highest standards for protection of our employees, contractors, community and the environment,” DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said in a statement.