Bayer CropScience LP has agreed to pay $5,657,000 in a settlement with the federal government for violations of chemical safety laws in connection with a fire and explosion at its Institute, WV, plant in 2008 that killed two people.
Bayer will spend:
- $4.23 million to improve emergency preparedness and response in Institute and protect the Kanawha River
- $975,000 in fines, and
- $452,000 to implement measures to improve safety at its chemical storage facilities in West Virginia, Michigan, Missouri and Texas.
Under the settlement, Bayer will improve inspections to identify potential safety issues and standardize facility safety operating procedures. In Institute, Bayer will conduct emergency response exercises with local responders and ensure proper certification of facility environmental management systems. Bayer must complete most of these actions within three years.
The Department of Justice and EPA say Bayer failed to:
- comply with its standard operating procedures designed to prevent accidental releases
- properly engage a safety interlock associated with a digital control system during startup
- fully train employees about the system, and
- follow procedures for sampling, temperature control and flow safeguards.
These failures resulted in an uncontrollable buildup in a treatment unit causing a chemical reaction resulting in the explosion, fire and deaths.
The DOJ and EPA say during the incident, the company delayed emergency officials from accessing the plant and failed to provide adequate information to 911 operators.
A previous investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found pressure to resume production at the plant after a lengthy maintenance period was a key factor in the explosion. The CSB says startup happened before equipment checks, a pre-startup safety review and computer calibration were complete.
Bayer previously paid $143,000 in OSHA fines in connection with an inspection that followed the explosion.
In a statement, the company said it hasn’t produced, used or stored methyl isocyanate at the Institute plant for more than four years.
“The Bayer CropScience operations at Institute today are very different from those of seven years ago,” Jim Covington, head of Bayer CropScience operations in Institute, said in the release, listing regular safety audits as one improvement.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and must be approved by a federal judge.