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Industrial Safety

Corteva sentenced for criminal negligence 8 years after a methyl mercaptan leak killed 4 employees

The company has been ordered to pay a total of $16 million and serve 2 years probation

by Krystal Vasquez
May 3, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 15


A chemical facility in Texas.
Credit: US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
The La Porte, Texas, facility, which was closed after the deadly 2014 chemical release.

A Corteva Agriscience subsidiary has pleaded guilty to criminal negligence, 8 years after an accidental chemical release killed 4 employees and injured several others at a now defunct insecticide plant in La Porte, Texas.

On April 24, a US district judge ordered the subsidiary, EIDP Inc., formerly known as E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company Inc., to pay a $12 million penalty and make a $4 million community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. EIDP must also serve 2 years of probation, during which time the company must provide the US Probation Office full access to all its operating locations.

The accident, which occurred on Nov. 15, 2014, at what was then a DuPont facility, released nearly 11 metric tons of highly toxic methyl mercaptan after plant workers tried to clear a section of blocked piping. A US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board probe following the incident determined that flawed engineering designs and a lack of adequate safeguards were to blame.

The US Department of Justice also found that Kenneth Sandel, a former manager who was responsible for making sure employees understood and followed safety procedures, failed to provide sufficient instructions on how to safely clear the blockage. Sandel pleaded guilty alongside the company and was sentenced to 1 year of probation.

“The Company deeply regrets the tragic events that occurred on November 15, 2014, at a former EIDP facility in La Porte, Texas,” says a Corteva spokesperson in an emailed response. “We are committed to the highest safety standards, and safety is a core value.”



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