In one of two settlements with the DEP Division of Air Quality, Bayer agreed to pay more than $115,000 to resolve a long list of alleged violations including not reporting to regulators more than 500 "actual and potential deviation events" on a variety of plant units, including those involving MIC and deadly phosgene gas.
Bayer also agreed to pay $7,500 in fines to resolve four other air pollution violation notices involving odor problems, excess emissions, and at least one uncontrolled chemical leak.
Institute plant manager Steve Hedrick told reporters during a conference call that, "Our best professional judgment is that neither our employees nor the public were at risk" from any of the problems outlined in the DEP settlements.
Asked if the issues outlined in the settlement paint a picture of a plant that does a good job meeting environmental protection requirements, Hedrick said, "No, and we seek to improve from this point, clearly."
The Institute plant has been controversial for years because of its use and storage of large amounts of MIC, the chemical that leaked and killed thousands of people near a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, in 1984. The facility has been under increased scrutiny since an August 2008 explosion that killed two workers and prompted federal investigators to warn of a near-miss disaster for the surrounding community.
In response, Bayer has agreed to reduce its MIC inventory by 80 percent, and Hedrick on Wednesday repeated the company's promise to "accept nothing less than excellence in process safety, occupational safety and environmental performance."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.