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August 29, 2008

Government & Policy

Chemical Plant Blast Kills One

Federal officials will investigate accident at Bayer pesticide facility

Glenn Hess

A massive explosion and fire on Thursday night killed one worker and injured another employee at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute, W.Va. The facility produces crop protection chemicals.

At a press conference on Friday morning, Sterling Lewis Jr., West Virginia's fire marshal, said the main chemical involved in the explosion was methyl isobutyl ketone, which is used in the production of Larvin, an insecticide.

Shortly after 2 AM on Friday, Kanawha County Emergency Management officials lifted a shelter-in-place order for thousands of people in the area about 10 miles west of Charleston.

The company said that the explosion occurred in a section of the plant in which waste products are treated before disposal. The unit had been closed for maintenance and was restarted earlier in the week. Bayer stated that the explosion did not pose a health threat to the general public.

"There was a chemical release in the immediate area of the structure, which developed into a fire several minutes later," according to Bayer. "The fire was brought under control by emergency response personnel from the site and was extinguished at about 2 AM, after operations employees completed the isolation of the operating equipment."

Bayer added that the cause of the incident could not be determined immediately, and it will not speculate as to what happened. "Our utmost concern is for the safety of our employees and the community," the company said. "This incident will be thoroughly investigated. The unit is totally shut down. It will not be restarted in the future until its safe operation can be completely assured."

Inspectors from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration were at the site on Friday morning. In addition, a five-member investigation team from the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board is expected to be at the Institute plant by late evening.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2009 American Chemical Society


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