The judge declined to grant approval of specific activities, but said that as long as the company "does not engage in activities that 'in any way involve starting any part of parts of the MIC process for production,'" it would not be violating the temporary restraining order.
"We appreciate the clarification, which permits us to move forward with the commissioning activities associated with the MIC safety enhancement project," said Steve Hedrick, the Bayer plant manager. "We assured the court that these activities would not involve production of MIC."
Last Thursday, Goodwin had granted a request from 16 Kanawha Valley residents that he temporarily block Bayer from resuming production of MIC until they could get a full hearing on a lawsuit to stop the company from reopening its MIC unit.
The case over restarting the MIC unit, which has been down for a reconfiguration project since August 2010, is the latest chapter in a 25-year effort by some Kanawha Valley residents to rid the community of the Institute plant's huge stockpile of MIC. Community activists have focused their concerns on MIC since December 1984, when a leak of the chemical killed thousands of people near a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India.
Bayer was preparing to start making MIC again within a week, following a project to remake the unit and reduce its stockpile of the chemical by 80 percent.
That project was nearly completed when Bayer announced last month that it was going to stop making, using and storing any MIC at the plant by mid-2012 as part of a corporate restructuring and an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cease sales of the pesticide Temik. At Institute, Bayer uses MIC to make aldicarb, the active ingredient in Temik. Aldicarb from Institute is shipped to another Bayer plant in Georgia, where it is used to formulate Temik. Bayer wants to restart the MIC unit so it can continue making aldicarb and Temik for another 18 months until the EPA deal takes effect.
Bayer originally said the MIC project would cost $25 million, but is now citing a figure of $36 million. Besides the inventory reduction, the project eliminated all aboveground storage or piping for MIC. Bayer says the project also included new equipment for the online analysis of MIC, new leak detection and monitoring systems, and upgraded tanks and piping.
"We will not operate until allowed by the court," Hedrick said. "When that time comes, we are fully dedicated to a safe startup of these operations and remain confident that we will meet our own high expectations, as well as those of our neighbors and community."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.