Seven Enforcement Actions, $270,000 in Fines and 51 Violation Notices in Five Years Is "Satisfactory" for TCEQ
On Saturday morning, people living near the DuPont chemical plant in La Porte awoke to the rotten-egg smell of methyl mercaptan, the chemical used to scent natural gas so you can sniff out a leak before your house explodes. By day's end, news had surfaced that one plant worker was injured and another four killed during an accidental methyl mercaptan release at the company's 800-acre complex earlier that morning.
What exactly caused the fatal leak that killed Wade Baker, Crystle Rae Wise, and brothers Robert and Gilbert "Gibby" Tisnado will only be revealed in the coming weeks and months as state officials and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board continue to investigate the incident (an eight-person CSB team began its investigation Monday morning). "Our goal in investigating this accident is to determine the root cause and make recommendations to prevent any similar accidents throughout the industry," said CSB managing director Daniel Horowitz in a statement.
As for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, spokesman Terry Clawson assured that "no off-site impacts to public health or to the environment have been identified," and said the agency is still responding to complaints about foul odors in the area. Clawson pointed out that TCEQ's own reports indicate DuPont has had "satisfactory" compliance with environmental regulations in recent years.
That's quite a curve, even considering "satisfactory" is regulator-speak for a middle-of-the-pack C student. "Satisfactory" by TCEQ standards apparently means numerous enforcement actions, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and more than four dozen written violation notices within five years.More »