US spends $575,000 to study MIC cuts at Bayer accident site

02 September 2010 21:01  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Federal agencies will spend $575,000 (€448,500) to determine if Bayer CropScience can reduce or eliminate use of methyl isocyanate (MIC) at its West Virginia pesticide production unit, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said on Thursday.

An explosion and fire at the Bayer facility at Institute, West Virginia, in August 2008 endangered a nearby aboveground storage tank containing nearly six tonnes of methyl isocyanate.

The board said that it had awarded a $575,000 contract to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for a year-long study on whether the plant’s inventory of the highly toxic chemical could be significantly reduced or removed entirely.

In the infamous 1984 tragedy at the former Union Carbide plant at Bhopal, India, a release of 40 tonnes of MIC killed nearly 4,000 residents and sickened thousands more.

In the wake of the 2008 accident, which killed two workers at the West Virginia plant, Bayer said it would reduce its inventory of MIC at the facility by as much as 80%.

Last month Bayer and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an agreement through which the company would phase out production of one of two remaining MIC-derived pesticides at the Institute facility.

The NAS is a non-profit scientific research group chartered by the US Congress and charged with investigating matters of scientific interest or concern to federal authorities.

Its 2,100 staff scientists include nearly 200 Nobel laureates.

The CSB said the study to be conducted by NAS also would examine what savings might be realised for Bayer in reduced safety and regulatory compliance costs if MIC use at the West Virginia plant could be eliminated.

The safety board was still completing its investigation of the August 2008 blast at the Bayer site but said it expected to have a final report by the end of this year.

The board noted that Bayer had previously stated that it would cooperate fully with the study that is to be undertaken by NAS.

($1 = €0.78)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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