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U.S. v. DuPont de Nemours & Co. (M.D. Tenn.)
Oleum storage tank. Courtesy of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.


On August 20, 1995, a storage tank containing oleum, a kind of acid, failed at a DuPont facility near Wurtland, Kentucky, creating clouds of sulfuric acid that floated over Wurtland County, including the towns of Wurtland, Ashland, and Greenup. Approximately 1000 people were ordered to evacuate. In one of the first cases litigated under Section 112(r), the United States alleged that DuPont had allowed a section of pipe constructed of the wrong material (cast iron, instead of cast steel) to be installed on the storage tank, and had failed to inspect the tank for many years.

The settlement of that lawsuit required DuPont to pay an $850,000 civil penalty and to spend at least $650,000 to upgrade the emergency notification system of the ten counties surrounding the Wurtland plant. During the August 20, 1995 release, many injuries had resulted from the failure to adequately warn residents to evacuate or shelter in place. Under the “reverse 911 system” required by the settlement, the emergency response authorities can send an emergency message to all residents and businesses within an affected area with one phone call.


Last Updated: November 2010