LA PORTE, Texas - E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company Inc. and a former employee were indicted by a Houston federal grand jury in connection to a deadly 2014 incident at a La Porte plant, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced.
Kenneth Sandel, 49, Friendswood, and representatives of DuPont were set to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy on Tuesday morning.
Officials say the former employee and DuPont were indicted for allegedly knowingly violating requirements of federal safety regulations and negligently releasing an extremely hazardous substance.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas says the indictment stems from an incident on Nov. 15, 2014, at the La Porte plant when 24,000 pounds of methyl mercaptan – a highly toxic, flammable gas — were released. According to the charges, the incident resulted in the deaths of four plant employees and injured others.
DuPont is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, and owns chemical manufacturing plants around the world, including the La Porte facility, according to the charges.
Sandel reportedly ran the Insecticide Business Unit at that location and was responsible for ensuring IBU employees followed applicable federal safety regulations.
According to the indictment, DuPont and Sandel allegedly knowingly failed to implement certain DuPont procedures federal regulations required.
"Specifically, Sandel and DuPont engineers allegedly devised a plan to divert a large volume of methyl mercaptan gas into a waste gas pipe system during the day before and night of the fatal incident," the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said in a release. "However, Sandel failed to implement necessary procedures to evaluate safety aspects of that plan and to prohibit workers from opening the pipe to the atmosphere, according to the charges."
If convicted of the federal safety regulations violations, Sandel faces up to five years in federal prison while the negligence charge could result in an additional one-year term. Both convictions also carry a potential fine of $250,000.
The company itself faces potential fines of the greater of $500,000 or twice the gross gain derived from the offense.