But in one of the reports, Lorenzo found that Bayer did not consistently document potential hazards in MIC piping and tanks. The 32-page, July 2010 report also found the company had not field-verified safety interlocks in the MIC unit, had no formal system to track safety recommendations, and had not set time limits for completing safety requirements to match OSHA guidance.
Lorenzo wrote that the problems "focused on documentation" and "do not necessarily imply any deficiencies in identifying hazards or controlling risks of the MIC unit."
Lorenzo's second report, dated Jan. 21, 2011, said that Bayer had completed about 95 percent of the items listed on a pre-startup safety review of the MIC unit. The 16-page report did not detail which items had not been completed.
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.
Over the weekend, hourly employees from the Bayer plant took out an ad in the Sunday Gazette-Mail to defend the facility where they work.
"We have the experience, training, knowledge and motivation to ensure safe operations at Institute," the ad said. "This area is our home too!"
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.