CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After months of delays, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board plans next week to release its report on safety problems -- including a January 2010 phosgene leak that killed a worker -- at the DuPont Co. plant in Belle.
Board members voted unanimously last week to issue the report, ending a string of votes in which holdover members from the Bush administration blocked efforts by chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso to make the agency's findings public.
CSB officials plan to release the report during a press conference on July 7, and then allow 45 days for public comments. The plan avoids a public meeting at which board factions were expected to bicker about other issues unrelated to the DuPont investigation.
Board investigators essentially finished their work months ago, but the report's release has been stalled by infighting among the agency's five members, who are presidential appointees. Information about the findings and recommendations has been shared with DuPont and with other government agencies, but not with the public.
This is the second time that the public release of a major board report on a Kanawha Valley plant has been delayed. The release of a report on the August 2008 explosion that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute ran into numerous delays.
The CSB and other agencies began focusing on the Belle facility in January 2010, after a series of incidents that included a leak of toxic and flammable methyl chloride that went undetected for nearly a week.
In the worst of those incidents, Danny Fish, a 32-year-plant veteran, was killed after he was sprayed with phosgene, a chemical building block used as a poison-gas weapon during World War I.
In the fatal phosgene leak, DuPont agreed to pay $43,000 in fines assessed by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspectors had also cited DuPont, saying the hose involved in the leak was five months overdue to be replaced. The EPA also said the braided-steel hose was the wrong kind of equipment to be used in the first place because of the extremely hazardous nature of phosgene.
OSHA inspectors had found that DuPont did not properly inspect the phosgene transfer hoses and did not train workers on the hazards associated with the chemical.
OSHA chief David Michaels has acknowledged that prior to Fish's death, his agency had not inspected the Belle plant for nearly five years and had not inspected it for another decade prior to that.
Since the fatal accident, OSHA has visited the Belle plant two other times, and each time inspectors cited DuPont for serious violations. The company has paid an additional $6,200 in fines for those citations.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.