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The Case of the DuPont
Inquiry & the UWI Student

A student of the Engineering Department of the UWI St. Augustine, contacted - DuPont Methylamines for information relevant to her final year project the design of a methylamine plant. Responding to the invitation by the website to contact them for any information, the student, requested relevant data on potential environmental hazards that could result from such a plant. Her email to DuPont, through their web enquiry service is as follows:

Good Day,

I am currently working on my final year design project in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering. The project invloves the design of a methylamine plant. I am seeking your assistance in identifying the potential environmental hazards associated with the construction of such a plant, in particular the side reactions and or general emissions.
Thanking you in advance for your assistance

Yours sincerely etc.

An Account Executive at DuPont, Barbara A. Spilka, who received this letter, then contacted her colleagues to determine whether she was at liberty to divulge this information. She therefore sent the following letter to Mr. John M. Leddy and Raymond D. Hunting.

Barbara A Spilka on 02/05/2004 03:06:06 PM
To:    John M Leddy/DuPont@DuPont, Raymond D Hunting/DuPont@DuPont
Subject:    DuPont Methylamines Web Inquiry

Should I send this to a technical support person or do we really want  to give out this sort of information.  And also isn't Trinidad where the new Methanex is located?

Mr. John M. Leddy, not only vehemently agreed that such information should not be divulged, but indicated that he saw Trinidad as market competition and went futher to spill his racist, bigoted views of Caribbean nationals:

John M Leddy
02/05/2004 04:32 PM
To:    Barbara A Spilka/AE/DuPont
cc:    Raymond D Hunting/DuPont@DuPont
Subject:    Re: DuPont Methylamines Web Inquiry  

NO---you are right on. Trinidad is basic in ammonia & I believe methanol as well---the last thing we want to do is help them brainstorm a way to integrate into amines!!!!  Tell him to go  jump in a lake--but politely  of course. If you want , you could tell him the business sucks, the stuff stinks to the high heavens & it is flammable, explosive  & generally nasty & you would be doing him & his rum swilling island neighbors no favors by further enlighetning him on amines!   Need any more advice??

Ms Spilka followed the advice of her superiors and sent the student this 'polite' email in response:

Subject: Re: DuPont Methylamines Web Inquiry
Cc: "Barbara A Spilka" <>
From: "Barbara A Spilka" <>
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004 16:48:45 -0500

Dear Aribeca:

      Thank you for your inquiry, however the web site you contacted is a Marketing Web Site for questions.   We are unable to supply the information you requested, however if you would like information about our products such as price, availability, and  properties, I would be happy to share this information with you.
Thank you again,

Barbara A. Spilka
Account Representative
Dupont Chemical Solutions Enterprise
Barley Mill Plaza 23-2233
P.O. Box 80023
Wilmington, DE 19880-0023
Tel:  302-992-2964,  Cell:  302-545-8428,  Fax: 302-992-4094

However, unknown to her (but fortunately for us) she also forwarded the entire previous email exchange to the student as well, giving us a rare opportunity to see how many people in so called First World countries really do see us!

The student forwarded the entire exchange to relevant persons at the University, who in turn communicated with the management at DuPont. This was their response

From: "Nick C Fanandakis"
Subject: DuPont Methylamines Inquiry
Sender: "Maureen Megginson" <>
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 2004 12:33:43 -0500

Dear  Dr. Farabi and Dr. Mohammed:

This is in regard to the e-mail sent to Aribeca Espinet from DuPont on Feb. 5.  Please accept my sincerest apologies and assurance that the language and views used and expressed in no way reflect the core values of DuPont, its leaders or employees.  The e-mail  contained totally inappropriate comments.  A formal investigation into the matter was launched immediately and all corrective and preventative actions have been taken. If there is anything I can do personally to help matters, please feel free to contact me by e-mail or please call at (302) 774- 1000.  It is my hope that you will accept this apology and forward it to all those who might have received your comments via the internet.  Unfortunately, we did not answer Aribeca's question.  We would be more than happy to provide information "in identifying the potential environmental hazards associated with the construction of such a plant."  She should receive an answer in the very near future.


Nick Fanandakis
Vice President & General Manager - DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise

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