On Thursday afternoon, Jan. 9, workers at DuPont's fiber plant called the Department of Environmental Quality to report that water from its site headed for the James River was contaminated. A portion of the plant shut down. Alarms blared.
The contaminated water got mixed in with clean water and then poured into the James, says Bill Hayden, public affairs manager for the DEQ. The accident took place over the course of four hours and involved 200,000 gallons of acidic water, Hayden says.
But the "accidental discharge" posed no threat to any person or the environment and will not effect the water quality of the river, says Robert L. Dunn, community and environmental affairs manager with DuPont.
Dunn says DuPont responded to the situation as it would to any potential emergency: by reporting the problem, fixing it and then monitoring it to make sure no damage ensues. So far, the exact cause of the accident hasn't been determined.
DuPont has a system that treats and stores two kinds of water: process water, which is dirtied by any number of contaminants; and storm water, which is clean. Dunn says that discharge pipes meant to isolate the two kinds of water malfunctioned.
What happened is rare, Dunn says.
"With an old pipe system it's not unheard of; it happens occasionally," the DEQ's Hayden says. He emphasizes there was no damage to the environment. The DEQ sent an inspector the next day and will follow up to make sure problems don't persist.
DuPont has been in the midst of a multimillion-dollar upgrade to its "conveyance system" for a few years. Some of its equipment dates to 1929.
"Any problem with the environment, any incident, we take seriously," Dunn says, stressing that even though contaminated water went into the James, it "did not violate any water parameters" set by the DEQ. Says Dunn: "We had it under control." Brandon
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.