October 06, 2015

'Unintentional discharge' at Bayer CropScience enters Muskegon County church

NORTH MUSKEGON, MI – An unintentional discharge of a high level of organic solvent material affected a Muskegon County church Monday, Oct. 5.
The discharge occurred about 2:30 p.m. during a routine process waste water discharge to a public sewer system at Bayer CropScience, 1740 Whitehall Road. According to a news release, the discharged material occurred in one section of sewer piping along Whitehall Road.
Fire officials from Muskegon Charter Township and North Muskegon responded after complaints of strong odors at First Lutheran Church, 1206 Whitehall Road.
Upon arrival, fire personnel evacuated the building. There were about five people who were preparing food in the church at the time, Muskegon Township Fire Chief Dave Glotzbach said.
"Our biggest primary concern was the flammability factor," he said. "Four is the highest, and this was rated as 3."
Fire officials used ventilation fans to clear the solvent fumes from the church's basement area. They also searched and located the drain source that allowed odor and fumes to enter the church, but Glotzbach said the source has not been fully confirmed.
The church is the only occupied building known to have been affected by the incident. The basement was the area with the strongest odor, but some fumes reached the first floor via a drain, Glotzbach said.
The piping near Bayer CropScience now us diluted and presents no safety, health or environmental issues for the community, the news release said.
Glotzbach said fire officials returned to the church about 8 a.m. Tuesday and confirmed the church is safe to reenter.
It has not yet been determined how the elevated levels of solvent were discharged.
"Ensuring the safety of our employees and the community and safeguarding our environment are the first priority for our Bayer operations," said Harold Lofton, site leader for the Bayer CropScience Muskegon plant in the news release. "We plan to restart our operations today having just completed a thorough check of our waste water distillation unit. Still, we will be monitoring our waste water frequently to ensure it remains within permitted levels. Meanwhile, we will investigate the cause of the odor to ensure there is no recurrence."
"We greatly appreciate the professional and prompt response to this situation by the Muskegon Charter Township and the North Muskegon fire departments," Lofton added. "We also sincerely apologize to those members in our community affected by this situation."
The facility will make the results of its investigation into the cause of the unintentional discharge known when it is completed.
Officials at the Muskegon County Wastewater System and Muskegon County Health Department were notified of the incident.