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INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Bayer CropScience will stop making, using and storing the deadly chemical methyl isocyanate at its Institute plant as part of a corporate restructuring that will cost the Kanawha Valley 220 jobs over the next several years, company officials announced Tuesday.
Bayer officials said the moves are a result of the company's agreement last August to phase out the pesticide aldicarb because of concerns it posed "unacceptable dietary risks," especially to children. Company officials also cited a 1995 pledge by Bayer to move away from products that global public health officials believe are especially dangerous.
Bayer plant manager Steven Hedrick said the jobs being eliminated would include salaried and hourly positions, but that a breakdown was not yet available.
Company officials broke the news to workers in meetings Tuesday morning, though decisions about which positions -- and which individuals -- would be affected had not yet been made.
"We will work collectively with our workforce, developing a solution that is right for our people and right for the business," Hedrick said.
Bayer officials said the timing of their announcement was not related to next week's scheduled release of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board's final report on the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two Bayer workers. The CSB's investigation and a related congressional hearing renewed public concern about the Institute plant's quarter-million-pound stockpile of methyl isocyanate, or MIC, the chemical that killed thousands of people in a 1984 leak from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India.
The 220-job reduction leaves about 280 Bayer workers and 200 contract workers at the plant.
Officials from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents hourly employees at Bayer, did not return phone calls.
Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper, who expressed grave concerns about the MIC inventory following the 2008 incident at the plant, said the goal of local officials should now be to work with Bayer to find other, "appropriate" businesses to provide jobs at the facility.
"That is a good result, assuming that is possible," Carper said. "We have to save as many jobs as we can."
At a press conference at the plant, Hedrick said the facility would stop production of aldicarb, the active ingredient in its Temik brand insecticide, by the end of June 2012.
And by June 2011, Bayer also plans to stop production of carbaryl, the active ingredient in the company's well-known Sevin brand pesticide, Hedrick said.