A hazardous chemical released into the air Tuesday morning at the DuPont chemical plant in Delisle, MS.
Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy said DuPont officials notified his office that about 1,000 pounds of titanium tetrachloride accidentally dispersed into the air.
After more detailed analysis, DuPont officials discovered the amount released turned out to be less than 1,000 pounds.
The chemical is a fine white powder that is harmful to humans and can be hazardous to the environment. The chemical can cause skin burns, severe irritation to eyes and other mucous membranes, and respiratory and lung problems if inhaled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
The chemical released about 9:30 a.m. and county officials cleared the scene about an hour later as plant workers cleaned up the property.
Lacy said the plant equipment experienced a brief release of titanium tetrachloride through the plant’s smokestack.
It occurred right as plant workers turned on some equipment, leading officials to believe the chemical had built up in the smokestack over time, then finally expelled it.
“You get a little bit of product buildup into the stack, so when they kicked it back on, it was kind of a burp,” Lacy said.
DuPont’s emergency-reaction personnel immediately began cleaning up the spill by dissolving the chemical in water, Lacy said.
Harrison County firefighters and emergency-management officials were at the plant to provide any assistance. Authorities from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) were also aware of the accident.
“They have their air-monitoring facilities,” Lacy said. “They go into their emergency protocol, and they can watch the cloud and track the cloud, but it did not ever leave the property.”
He said such accidents are not uncommon, and DuPont has experienced similar releases in the past.
Federal law requires a report when a chemical spill occurs at amounts over certain thresholds.
“Based on information we have at this point, it appears there was a spill of titanium tetrachloride that occurred at the facility that may or may not have met that threshold,” MDEQ spokesman Robbie Wilbur said.
The plant self-reported an estimate of 1,000 pounds “out of an abundance of caution and to comply with rapid reporting requirements,” DuPont spokesman Terry Gooding said.
DuPont updated the EPA later Tuesday with more accurate data that the quantity was well below the threshold for mandatory reporting, “There were no injuries, nor off-site impact,” Gooding said.
The MDEQ and EPA will continue to investigate the chemical release.