It appears that a chemical company withheld information about a huge explosion that occurred last August at the West Virginia plant. Managers refused for several hours to tell emergency responders the nature of the blast or the toxic chemical it released. They later misused a law intended to keep information from terrorists to try to stop federal investigators from learning what had happened. A U.S. House subcommittee has been investigating this matter. The explosion, at Bayer CropScience, in Institute, West Virginia, killed two employees and sickened six volunteer firefighters. It was felt ten miles away, and a tank weighing several thousand pounds “rocketed 50 feet through the plant,” according to committee investigators.
Fortunately, it did not go in the direction of a tank holding the same chemical that killed thousands in a 1984 chemical plant explosion in Bhopal, India. Devices meant to detect releases of the chemical, methyl isocyanate, or MIC, had been disabled, and video cameras had been disconnected, steps that “raise concerns about an orchestrated effort by Bayer, a subsidiary of Bayer AG, to shroud the explosion in secrecy,” according to the subcommittee chairman, Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan.
After the Bhopal catastrophe, Congress created an independent agency, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), to investigate chemical accidents in this country. But Bayer’s chief executive, William Buckner, said in his prepared testimony for the committee that company officials believed they could “refuse to provide information” to the board. Later, Buckner said that company officials labeled some documents as having security-sensitive information in order to “discourage the CSB from even seeking this information.”
The company acted under a 2002 law intended to make ports more secure — Bayer CropScience brings barges in on the Kanawha River — and said that it was under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard, an agency that does not have extensive experience in chemical processing. In response to questions, Buckner said that the company later found that 88 percent of the 2,000 documents it had marked as being “security sensitive” were not.
The plant was previously owned by Union Carbide, which also owned the plant in Bhopal that had released tons of MIC in December 1984. It appears the company endangered people in the area by giving no meaningful information for hours and turning away six emergency responders.
Source: New York Times
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.