Bayer CropScience is one of the Big Five agricultural companies responsible for pushing GMOs and their health-damaging chemicals on the world. The company has agreed to pay a $975,000 fine and spend $452,000 on a series of measures to improve chemical storage facilities across the United States over allegations of serious safety violations that helped cause a massive explosion. The explosion killed two workers at the company’s West Virginia plant.
Bayer will also spend $4.23 million to improve emergency preparedness and to protect the Kanawha River. A congressional investigation surrounding a runaway chemical reaction that happened at Bayer’s plant in 2008 revealed a storage tank just 80 feet away almost exploded. Federal investigators suggested that it had the residue treater hit the tank: “the consequences could have eclipsed the 1984 disaster in Bhopal/India.”
The tank holds a chemical called methyl isocyanate, which Bayer (MIC) stockpiles at the plant. Environmental groups have warned that should the plant have any other safety ‘accidents,’ the MIC could kill thousands. This already happened at Union Carbide in 1984 in Bhopal. After the Bhopal disaster, other chemical companies stopped storing it on site, and only made it when it was necessary, since it is highly-deadly.
Prior to the 2008 explosion, the Coalition against Bayer Dangers, based in Germany, introduced several counter-motions to Bayer´s Annual Shareholder Meetings demanding to stop MIC production in Institute. However, when the Coalition spoke up on the issue just 4 months ahead of the explosion at the shareholder meeting, Bayer CEO Werner Wenning rejected any need for action. The plant allegedly heeds the “latest safety standards.”
Axel Koehler-Schnura from the Coalition against Bayer Dangers commented:
“Highly hazardous substances such as phosgene and MIC do not belong in mass production, and certainly not in the vicinity of residential areas. Ever since the company became established, Bayer has endeavored, by exerting pressure and making threats, to suppress information and criticism – also at Institute. The truth and the interests of humans and the environment are left by the wayside.”
The million-dollar settlement will resolve allegations contained in a 13-count civil complaint, filed last week in federal court in Charleston, that accused Bayer of violations that “caused or contributed to conditions that” led to the explosion and “released extremely hazardous substances into the atmosphere.”
The company was also accused of not following a risk management plan, and not properly training employees to understand or operate a digital system which was installed to monitor the plant.
Bayer also delayed calls to 911, and then failed to give them accurate information regarding the explosion.
Shawn M. Garvin, administrator of EPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional office in Philadelphia:
“The multiple safety failures that existed at this facility that led to a loss of life, demonstrates why safeguards are necessary to protect people’s health and the environment.”
The 173-page settlement document outlines seven “supplemental environmental projects” that Bayer will undertake at a total cost of $4.23 million. These include a $3.1 million “West Sump Expansion” to provide additional storage capacity to prevent untreated chemical wastewater from overflowing into the Kanawha River during heavy rains, fire-fighting emergencies, and chemical processing accidents.
Featured image from: BioPharmaDive