September 15, 2008, Daily Mail
Bayer CropScience to pay more than $1 million to settle federal charges
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bayer CropScience has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle federal charges that the Institute site's previous owner, Aventis CropScience, from 1999 to 2001 kept shoddy records, exceeded its discharge permit limits for numerous hazardous chemicals and failed to properly notify authorities of discharge excesses.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to publish the proposed settlement agreement soon, perhaps today.
The settlement comes 18 days after an explosion at the Institute plant killed one worker and injured another. Thousands of residents took shelter in their homes to avoid fumes from a fire in the plant's Larvin pesticide unit. Emergency services personnel have criticized Bayer CropScience for failing to provide timely information following that incident, which remains under investigation.
Under the proposed settlement agreement stemming from the period Aventis CropScience owned the Institute site, Bayer CropScience will pay $112,500 in fines and donate more than $900,000 worth of equipment to first-responder organizations in the Kanawha Valley, including:
- $355,000 to install a scrubber on the vent gas incinerator at the Institute site to reduce discharges of sodium hypochlorite into the site's wastewater treatment system and ultimately reduce chloroform inputs into the Kanawha River.
- $305,000 to install a total organic carbon analyzer to help identify periods when increased levels of pollutants are discharging into the site's wastewater sewer system.
- $167,950 to enhance real-time emissions dispersion modeling programs at the Charleston Metro 911 Center so the center's managers can better respond in the event of a chemical release.
- $33,021 for a breathing air system for the West Virginia Regional Education Service Agency III's Kanawha Valley Emergency Preparedness Training Center, which is at the Institute site. The company also agreed to continue paying the training center's utilities.
- A total of $29,861 worth of equipment such as gas detectors, radios, coats, pants, gloves and boots for the St. Albans Fire Department, Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department and Institute Volunteer Fire Department.
- $10,727 to sponsor training courses for emergency responders in the Kanawha Valley.
Bayer CropScience purchased the Institute site in June 2002. The company said in a prepared statement that it has taken corrective action to address the issues raised by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Nick Crosby, Bayer CropScience's Institute site manager, said in a prepared statement, "Bayer CropScience is pleased to be able to work with the EPA to fund these worthwhile projects. I hope they will improve emergency response capabilities across the Kanawha Valley."
In the proposed settlement agreement, Bayer CropScience neither admits nor denies the federal agency's charges.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said today he is not impressed with the proposed settlement. "You have these things go on for years," he said. "They finally get around to fining someone after years go by and it seems to be too small compared to the harm."
The proposed settlement stems from multimedia inspections of the Institute site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, from May 15 to 24, Aug. 13 to 16 and Nov. 6 to 9.
Those inspections turned up multiple alleged violations, including:
- Discharges of toluene, isophorone, chloroform, ammonia-nitrogen, carbofuran, fecal coliform, methylene chloride, cyanide and other regulated substances in excess of permitted limits.
- A failure to report measured outflows from several discharge locations.
- A failure to update and maintain a Best Management Practices Plan.
- Failures to keep hazardous waste containers closed and properly labeled.
- A failure to determine whether paper towels and rags used in the maintenance shop were contaminated with a hazardous waste.
- Disposal of wastewater treatment sludge in the Goff Mountain Landfill without meeting applicable land disposal restriction treatment standards with respect to p-cresol or 4-Methylphenol.
- A failure to follow the site's Waste Analysis Plan.
- The lack of a flow indicator that took readings at least once every 15 minutes on a process vent. Federal inspectors allege that the company was not maintaining records of whether the flow indicator was operating, whether the gas stream was diverted to the atmosphere or whether the monitor was operating at several locations within the carbaryl process. Carbaryl is the active ingredient in Sevin brand insecticide.
The plant at Institute has been under close scrutiny since December 1984, when methyl isocyanate leaked at a sister plant in Bhopal, India, killing thousands of people. It was the world's worst industrial disaster. Methyl isocyanate is a pesticide ingredient made and stored at the Institute plant.
The Bhopal and Institute plants were both owned by Union Carbide Corp. at the time of the leak at Bhopal. The Institute plant has since changed hands several times. After Rhone-Poulenc bought the site in 1986, that company invested $50 million to upgrade and strengthen systems, including the methyl isocyanate safety systems.
Aventis CropScience was created in 2000 when Rhone-Poulenc and Hoechst AG of Germany merged.
About 500 Bayer CropScience employees, 80 Dow Chemical employees and 200 contractors work at the Institute site, formally known as the Bayer CropScience Manufacturing Industrial Park. The park has several other tenants including Praxair Corp., Adisseo, FMC Corp., Catalyst Refiners and Reagent Chemicals. by George Hohmann