WSAZ TV, Oct 27, 2008
Bayer Communication Issues Continue, County Officials Say
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Kanawha County's emergency services director says he should have been informed about a minor situation involving the chemical MIC at the Bayer CropScience Plant in Institute.
In fact, county officials say the first they heard about it is when WSAZ.com contacted them about it.
MIC, short for methyl isocyanate, is an extremely toxic chemical used in the production of some pesticides.
Tom Dover, spokesperson for Bayer, confirms a tank associated with MIC storage was opened during inspections in the west side of the plant, but says the amount of chemical leaked was far below reporting levels. The situation happened near the end of September.
Workers took action after smelling the odor of MIC, which Dover says has a strong smell even at very low levels. Employees then left the area and several were checked out at the plant's medical facility. One contractor then decided on his own to go to an outside hospital after his shift. Dover says he was released with nothing found.
Dover tells WSAZ.com there was no harmful exposure of MIC to employees or anyone outside the plant. He called this a "non-incident" because the levels were not anywhere near dangerous levels.
"At no point was anyone in danger," Dover said.
Dover adds that Bayer would have notified county officials "without hesitation" had the amount of MIC reached reportable levels.
Dale Petry, Kanawha County Emergency Services Director, says he's a little disturbed that he didn't know about this situation, even if the amount of MIC involved did not meet a reportable level.
"I wish I had known about it," said Petry. "Let me make the decision whether it should be reported to the public."
Petry says he doesn't think this latest incident will hurt the county's relationship with the plant. He wants to continue to work with Bayer to improve communication.
Bayer came under fire for its lack of communication to the county after an explosion at its Larvin unit in early September. Two workers died as a result of the blast. Kanawha County officials say Bayer waited hours to release any detailed information about the severity of the incident.
As a result of having little information, county officials issued a shelter-in-place for the western portion of Kanawha County, affecting thousands of people.
Bayer later admitted that it should have provided better information during the explosion and agreed to change its notification system.
Reporter: Mike Waterhouse