Tuesday, April 21, 2009

That's Comforting

Last August, I was on my way to bed when I flipped on the late local news. They were in "breaking" mode, covering an explosion at the Bayer chemical plant down the highway in Institute. Turned out nothing noxious was released (although two workers were killed in the explosion and resulting fire), but it turns out it could have been much worse:

The Kanawha Valley may have narrowly escaped a chemical plant catastrophe that could have surpassed the 1984 Bhopal disaster, according to a report released today by congressional investigators.

The August 2008 explosion at the Bayer CropScience Institute plant turned a 2 1/2-ton chemical vessel into a 'dangerous projectile' that could have destroyed a nearby tank of deadly methyl isocyanate, according to the report by House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee staff.

* * *

The Aug. 28 explosion 'came dangerously close' to compromising an MIC storage tank 80 feet away, congressional investigators concluded. Had the residue treater hit the MIC tank, 'the consequences could have eclipsed the 1984 disaster in India.'
But wait, it gets better:
'Evidence obtained by the committee demonstrates that Bayer engaged in a campaign of secrecy by withholding critical information from local, county and state emergency responders; by restricting the use of information provided to federal investigators; by undermining news outlets and citizen groups concerned about the dangers posed by Bayer's activities; and by providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public, the committee said in a 20-page report released at the start of a hearing this afternoon.
That's just great. Not only did Bayer's fuck up nearly get us all killed, they bullshitted everyone about the problem. The committee also obtained an internal Bayer memo that laid explained how management should marginalize those who might ask questions, like People Concerned About MIC and The Charleston Gazette.

But, hey it all worked out in the end, right? Thank goodness we have such a beneficent multinational corporation looking out for our, er, their best interests!

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