Bayer's Silence on Fatal Factory Explosion Gets National Attention

Last Updated Mar 31, 2009 10:48 AM EDT

Bayer's refusal to explain publicly why its Institute, W. Va., chemical plant exploded last August has finally made the Big Media. The NYT summarized the issue over the weekend. BNET noted the matter back on Feb. 25. Back story: After a fire (pictured) ripped through Bayer's cropscience plant killing two people and forcing residents in seven towns to "shelter in place," Bayer cited an obscure maritime law that the company said allowed it it to avoid having to explain in public to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board how the fire occured. The law can be used to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the information.

Among the unanswered questions are why one of the dead bodies contained a toxic level of cyanide in his blood and why Bayer was storing 200,000 pounds of methyl isocyanate at the site. (In the Union Carbide Bhopal disaster of 1984, less than 90,000 pounds leaked.)

A hearing is scheduled for April 23 which Bayer said it will attend. The Sunday Gazette Mail:

...the board is going to go ahead with the meeting, but will run its report by the Coast Guard first to ensure that any confidential information is protected.
Note in the Times story that Rep. Bart Stupak has also become concerned with Bayer's lack of disclosure:
We are concerned about the way that Bayer may be misusing terrorism laws to suppress information related to the incident.
Helping Bayer is the Coast Guard, which has jurisdiction over the site of the plant, and believes it may "only be prudent" not to tell anyone anything about what happened.

If Bayer and the Coast Guard get their way, it will set up an interesting precedent: If you terrorize your neighbors by setting off a massive fire on your property, you can refuse to explain how that happened by claiming you might be the next target of terrorism.

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