Bayer to cut MIC inventory at W Virginia plant by 80%

26 August 2009 21:03  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US officials said on Wednesday that Bayer CropScience will cut inventory of deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) by 80% at its Charleston, West Virginia, plant where two workers died in an August 2008 blast.

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said that Bayer officials at the Charleston facility plan to reduce the average inventory of MIC at the plant by 80% by eliminating on-site production of two MIC-derived carbamate pesticides and by restricting inventory of MIC needed for production of two remaining pesticides.

Board president John Bresland said that the company also has agreed to eliminate bulk storage of MIC in aboveground tanks at the site.

Two workers died as a result of the 28 August 2008 blast at the plant’s methomyl unit.

Methyl isocyanate was the chemical released at Bhopal, India, in the December 1984 disaster that killed some 4,000 residents of the town and sickened thousands more.

In testimony before Congress in April this year, Bresland was sharply critical of Bayer’s safety and security measures at the plant, the company’s response to the accident and its attempt to block a public CSB hearing on the accident.

He noted that a 40,000-lb above-ground MIC storage tank at the Charleston plant was only 25 metres from the August 2008 blast origin and could have been ruptured by explosion debris.

Announcing the inventory reduction agreement, Bresland said Bayer’s actions to reduce MIC inventory at the West Virginia plant “are a positive development”.

“The steps Bayer has outlined will lessen the risk to the public and the workforce from an uncontrolled release of MIC,” Bresland said. He said Bayer will complete the inventory adjustments in about a year at a cost of some $25m (€17.5m) and without any job losses.

Bresland said the board’s investigation of the Charleston blast likely will be completed in the first half of next year and the final report will be aired at another public meeting in West Virginia.

Bayer CropScience officials were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday, but the company issued a statement confirming the CSB announcement.

($1 = €0.70)

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