Bayer reaches $5.6 million settlement over fatal US blast
22 September 2015
Bayer CropScience LP, a subsidiary of German pharma and chemicals group Bayer, has reached a $5.6 million settlement with the US Government over an explosion at a West Virginia pesticide facility that killed two people in 2008, US authorities said on September 21.
The Institute plant - Image: Bayer
The company will spend $4.23 million to improve emergency preparedness and response at the plant whee the blast took place in Institute, West Virginia, and pay a $975,000 penalty. It will also spend approximately $452,000 to improve safety at its chemical storage facilities in West Virginia, Texas, Missouri and Michigan, the Justice Department said in a statement.
It will also take steps to prevent pollution from water used in the manufacturing process at its West Virginia plant from reaching the local Kanawha River, the department said. The deal was reached jointly with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.
An investigation into the August 2008 explosion at the pesticide manufacturing facility said it was caused by a build up in a treatment unit that ultimately overpressurised and exploded.
Federal investigators found that safety lapses led to the deadly runaway chemical reaction that killed two workers in August 2008.
"The tragic accident at the Bayer CropScience facility in West Virginia underscores the need for hazardous chemicals to be stored and handled in accordance with the law to protect worker health and the environment," Cynthia Giles, EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance assistant administrator, said in a news release. "This settlement will establish important safeguards at its facilities across the country and improve emergency response capabilities in the Institute, West Virginia community."
A US Chemical Safety Board report blamed the blast on the chemical reaction inside a 4,500-gallon tank that broke down waste from making methomyl, which is used in the pesticide Larvin. The report says company management withheld information from county emergency officials during the response.
Jim Covington, head of Bayer CropScience operations at the West Virginia facility, said in a statement that work procedures at the plant "are very different" compared to the time of the incident.
"Improved emergency communications, strengthened operating procedures, regular safety audits, these and more all serve to help safeguard our employees and the community," he said.
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