US Chemical Safety Board reinstates Bayer blast hearing

13 March 2009 20:32  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has reinstated a public meeting on the causes of a deadly explosion at a Bayer CropScience plant, citing the public's right to know about such accidents, the board said on Friday.

The meeting was originally scheduled for 19 March, but was postponed after Bayer claimed that revealing such information to the public would violate confidentiality regulations related to plant security. The meeting will now be held on 23 April.

The 28 August blast killed two workers at the company’s West Carbamoylation Center near Charleston, West Virginia.

The postponement of the hearing sparked outcries from activist groups that accused the CSB of caving to corporate pressure. And after seeking an interpretation of Bayer’s legal claim from the US Coast Guard, the CSB chose to go forward with the public meeting.

“When Bayer raised the issue of homeland security, we took it seriously,” said Daniel Horowitz, CSB director of public affairs. “But our agency has a very strong commitment to the public’s right to know about these accidents.”

“We had a number of discussions with the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security and we hope we are working toward a resolution that will preserve our ability to do our job without any constraint.”

Horowitz said the CSB did not anticipate restrictions in what information it could share with the public. However, he said the CSB would give the Coast Guard a preview of the final material, and ask if it regards any of the report as security-sensitive.

“If they do, we’ll go from there, like the process we just completed,” Horowitz said. “Hopefully there won’t be any overlap between safety work and security work.”

An explosion near a large methyl isocyanate tank at the Bayer plant  lead to controversy over the high volume of methyl isocyanate stored at the plant.

The West Virginia activist group People Concerned about MIC compared the potential damage from methyl isocyanate storage with the 1984 chemical spill that killed thousands in Bhopal, India.

Bayer uses methyl isocyanate, a toxic petrochemical often used in the production of rubber and adhesives, to make methomyl.

Bayer did not respond to requests for comment by ICIS news.

The 23 April public meeting will be held in Institute, West Virginia. CSB investigators will present preliminary findings on the circumstances surrounding the accident. Public comments will be invited.

“This was a serious accident which claimed the lives of two workers and had a significant impact on the surrounding community,” said CSB chairman John Bresland.

“We hope to inform the public of our preliminary findings as well as gain additional information and insight into the events surrounding this incident.”

For more on Bayer visit ICIS company intelligence
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By: Ben DuBose
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