US House committee holds Bayer blast hearing on Tuesday

21 April 2009 16:02  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A US House committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday on issues surrounding the 28 August explosion that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant near Charleston, West Virginia.

The hearing, held by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, comes two days before the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) holds a long-awaited public meeting in West Virginia, where it will release investigation findings regarding the accident.

One of the issues to be examined on Tuesday is Bayer’s continued claim that part of the CSB’s report should not be released to the public due to national security concerns.

That issue forced the postponement of the CSB hearing from 19 March until 23 April, during which the CSB consulted with government officials regarding the legitimacy of Bayer’s claim.

The House committee will also examine the emergency response to the incident, as well as concerns over storage of the toxic petrochemical methyl isocyanate in the vicinity of the explosion. Methyl isocyanate, often used in the production of rubber and adhesives, was involved in the 1984 chemical spill that killed thousands in Bhopal, India.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) records show the company stores 100,000-999,999 lb (45-453 tonnes) of methyl isocyanate at the plant. The explosion occurred near a large tank that held about 40,000 lb of the substance.

Moreover, according to The Charleston Gazette, emergency responders have said Bayer gave them little information until several hours after the explosion.

Likewise, Bayer waited more than two hours to formally report the accident to the US National Response Center.

Numerous West Virginia county and emergency officials are set to speak at the House hearing.

The House committee has also said it would pay particular attention to Thursday’s CSB-led hearing, in which investigators are expected to examine the causes of the accident, the adequacy of the response, and the scope of information provided to first responders, employees and the public, according to CSB spokesman Daniel Horowitz.

Bayer has not responded to requests for comment from ICIS news.

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