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Two DuPont workers exposed to sulfuric acid

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two workers at the DuPont Co. plant in Belle were transported to a local hospital Tuesday after sulfuric acid sprayed from a hose during the demolition of the facility's sulfuric acid production unit, officials said.

DuPont spokesman Nate Pepper said the incident occurred at about 1:12 p.m., while contractors working for DuPont were using a hose to transfer material from a tank into a pump truck came out of the tank.

"The two contractors were showered and transported by ambulance to the hospital," Pepper said in a prepared statement. "One employee was transported for treatment and the other transported for precautionary purposes."

Tuesday's incident occurred as Kanawha Valley residents wait for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to release a report it has completed on a series January 2010 leaks at the Belle plant, including a phosgene release that killed longtime plant employee Danny Fish.

CSB investigators have completed a draft of the report, and DuPont has been allowed to review a copy of the report. But so far, board members have not agreed on a plan for releasing the document to the public.

C.W. Sigman, deputy emergency services director for Kanawha County, said emergency officials were told a hose came loose and acid was released while contractors were working to tear down the acid-production unit.

DuPont officials called Kanawha County's Metro 911 office at 1:12 p.m., saying that two males had been exposed to some sort of toxic material. The company did not initially report the material involved, but asked for medical assistance, officials said.

Six minutes later, at 1:18 p.m., DuPont called Metro 911 back to report that the workers were being treated in decontamination showers.

DuPont officials did not immediately say exactly what had happened, officials said. Metro 911 dispatchers said government officials had no indication that whatever occurred would require any protective action by residents living near the plant.

In its statement, DuPont said the incident was contained, the material involved "secured" and that there was "no need for the community to take action" to protect itself from a leak. Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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