Bayer adds to response team after hearing on US plant blast

24 April 2009 23:38  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A day after a hearing was held examining Bayer CropScience’s emergency response to a deadly explosion at its plant near Charleston, West Virginia, the company appointed Doug Jones as emergency services leader for the facility, it said on Friday.

Bayer spokesman Tom Dover said the announcement of the new position was in the works for some time and was not correlated to the hearings.

“The safety of our employees, neighbours and the community is our highest priority,” said site manager Nick Crosby. “We look for the new role of emergency services leader to significantly enhance our coordination and emergency communications with Metro 911 and the community’s emergency responders.”

Bayer said Jones had already begun meeting with local fire departments and emergency officials.

Bayer came under fire this week at a US House hearing, when it was accused of conducting a “campaign of secrecy” following the 28 August accident.

US House and US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigators said Bayer failed to provide emergency responders on the night of the explosion with critical information about the scope of the blast, the potential chemical hazards involved or the actions needed to safeguard the community.

Investigators said there were “serious questions” about the vulnerabilities of Bayer’s inventory of methyl isocyanate and about methyl isocyanate monitoring systems that were out of service at the time of the explosion.

The committee said Bayer “is now attempting to conceal information about the explosion by invoking, and in some cases misusing, a statute governing maritime transportation security to designate unprecedented amounts of material as ‘sensitive security information’.”

Investigators also accused Bayer of destroying potential evidence, including the disabling of plant surveillance cameras.

CSB chairman John Bresland said at Thursday’s hearing that the CSB had found “significant lapses” in the plant’s process safety management.

Moreover, he said he was “very troubled” by the inadequacy of Bayer’s emergency response.

“For example, the county’s 911 call centre was told, 15 minutes into the response, that no dangerous chemicals had been released,” Bresland said. “That statement is clearly inaccurate, since methomyl is toxic, and its uncontrolled decomposition may release highly toxic byproducts.”

Investigators said took more than 30 minutes for Bayer to recommend issuing a shelter-in-place advisory for the surrounding communities, and only after local authorities had already done so on their own.

It also took more than two hours before Bayer reported the accident to the National Response Center and that report “erroneously omitted” the fatality and the critical injury, Bresland said.

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