US Chemical Safety Board:
New video on 2008 Bayer Institute/WV explosion
For many years the safety situation at Bayer's facilities in Institute, West Virginia remained critical. Large quantities of highly toxic chemicals such as methyl isocyanate (MIC) and phosgene were produced and stored. Serious accidents occured on a regular basis.
On August 28, 2008 an explosion at the Institute plant rocked an area west of Charleston, hurling a fireball hundreds of feet into the air and killing two workers. The Kanawha Valley only narrowly escaped a chemical plant catastrophe, according to a report released by congressional investigators. Committee investigators found that the tank that exploded "rocketed 50 feet into the air, twisting steel beams, severing pipes, and destroying virtually everything in its path." The explosion "came dangerously close" to compromising an MIC storage tank 80 feet away. Had the residue treater hit the MIC tank, "the consequences could have eclipsed the 1984 disaster in Bhopal/India."
In the 1980s, the factory belonged to Union Carbide and was regarded as the "sister plant" to the infamous factory in Bhopal, India where in December 1984 thirty tons of MIC leaked and at least 15,000 people died. Nowhere else in the United States such large quantities of MIC were produced and stored.
The Coalition against Bayer Dangers, based in Germany, had introduced several countermotions to Bayer´s Annual Stockholders´ Meetings which demanded to dismantle MIC stockpiles at Institute and to stop the frequent spills – even prior to the explosion. Bayer opposed a full clarification of the accident and hired PR consultants and an army of attorneys. A first public hearing by the Chemical Safety Board was called off following threats from Bayer.
In 2011 Bayer CropScience announced to finally stop producing the Bhopal chemical MIC at its Institute plant. A great success after a quarter-century campaign! The company now has to ensure that all workers are offered adequate new jobs.