Workers trying to fix a leaky valve at the DuPont and Co. chemical plant in LaPorte, TX, could be the cause of death for four workers early Saturday morning, officials said.
The victims were among a group of workers who were trying on Saturday to contain a leak of methyl mercaptan at the plant, located in a cluster of refineries and chemical plants 26 miles from downtown Houston.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is on site and will try to find out what went wrong in the deadly incident.
This chemical is the one used to give natural gas its rotten-egg smell and in making insecticides and plastics. Methyl mercaptan is hazardous and can cause death in high enough concentrations. The volatile chemical can also explode, officials said.
The CSB, an independent federal agency, said it did not have any prior concerns about the La Porte plant.
Two of the dead workers were brothers Robert and Gilbert Tisnado, according to Houston television station KTRK. No information was available on the other two workers who died in the incident.
A fifth worker went to an area hospital and released on Saturday, a DuPont spokesman said Sunday. He declined to identify the dead and injured workers.
Randall Clements, the DuPont La Porte plant manager, said in a statement the leak, which caused a stench across much of southern Houston, began at 4 a.m. CST Saturday and was later contained.
“It appears at this point that several of the employees were responding to a leak in a valve,” Clements said.
Clements said the four workers had between eight months and 40 years of work experience.
There were no records of inspections of the plant found on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website. An OSHA representative was not immediately available to discuss the plant’s history.
OSHA will conduct an investigation separate from the CSB.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the plant had a satisfactory compliance rating with the agency and last received a citation for moderate violations in August. Agency investigators were on the scene of accident since Saturday.