Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
ENRD (202) 514-2007
EPA (404) 562-8316


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency today announced they have reached a settlement with DuPont in connection with Clean Air Act violations involving a May 1997 chemical release from DuPont’s fluoroproducts plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

DuPont manufactures numerous chemicals at its Louisville Facility, including 1,1-­difluoroethane (“DFE"). DuPont produces DFE by reacting anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and acetylene in a large reactor ('DFE reactor"). On May 19, 1997, at 11:40 a.m., while using pressurized steam in an attempt to clean a blocked valve in the discharge pipeline from the DFE reactor to another reactor, workers blew out the valve, resulting in the immediate release of a high pressure stream of hydrogen fluoride into the ambient air both inside and outside the facility. DuPont was unable to contain or block that release for approximately 40 minutes. During that time, virtually all of the contents of the DFE reactor, including approximately 11,500 pounds of hydrogen fluoride, escaped into the air.

The escaping hydrogen fluoride formed a toxic cloud of gas which migrated from the facility. As a result, four nearby chemical manufacturing plants were shut down and evacuated for several hours, and local public health and safety officials directed nearby residents and school children to stay indoors until the public health threat from the hydrogen fluoride abated.

In the complaint filed simultaneously with the consent decree, the United States alleges that DuPont violated the Clean Air Act by (1) failing to identify, through the use of appropriate hazard assessment techniques, the hazards associated with an accidental release of hydrogen fluoride during maintenance activities in connection with production of DFE at the Facility; (2) failing to design and maintain a pipeline and valve system for the DFE reactor to prevent releases of hydrogen fluoride during maintenance activities, and therefore failed to design and maintain a safe facility taking such steps as are necessary to prevent such releases; (3) failing in any way to minimize the consequences of the release of approximately 11,500 pounds of hydrogen fluoride from the Facility on May 19, 1997.

The agreement filed today in federal court in Louisville, Kentucky, settles all federal claims set forth in the complaint. Under the proposed agreement, the Delaware-based DuPont will pay $550,000 in civil penalties and perform eight Supplemental Environmental Projects (“SEPs”) valued at $552,000. Under the proposed SEPs, DuPont will provide emergency response equipment and training for Local Emergency Planning Committees (“LEPCs”), and provide a green buffer zone between its facility and the surrounding area, and will contract with a community group in an environmental justice area to set up a website on environmental issues and to ensure that the group can continue to run its information center which disseminates information on local environmental concerns.

Now that the consent decree has been lodged, there will be a 30-day public comment period.