Bayer Stored Bhopal Disaster Chemical in Faulty Tanks

Last Updated Jan 12, 2010 4:44 PM EST

Bayer (BAY.DE) is storing 90 tonnes of methyl isocyanate -- the chemical that killed thousands in the 1984 Union carbide disaster at Bhopal -- in a storage tank in Institute, W.V., that has failed safety inspections. The amount of methyl isocyanate (or MIC) at Bayer's site (200,000 pounds) is roughly double that released in the Bhopal tragedy. The Charleston Gazette reported:
Tom Dover, a Bayer spokesman, said in an e-mailed response that the company "is in discussions" with DEP and wanted to "emphasize that the integrity of the referenced tanks is not in question, nor is the safe storage of our materials."
Locals are concerned about the MIC storage because Bayer's Institute site caught fire in 2008 (pictured), killing two people and forcing its neighbors to shelter in their homes. Since then, Bayer has been accused of covering up evidence related to that fire and refusing to attend public hearings into the incident.

The state Department of Environmental Protection cited Bayer's MIC tanks for having faulty safety systems:

... the tests the uncertified workers performed showed the corrosion protect system wasn't working properly. Agency officials instructed Bayer to have tests performed by qualified workers.
U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman John Bresland told the Gazette:
"It doesn't give us a warm and fuzzy feeling ... I would have thought if you were dealing with a tank containing methyl isocyanate, you would always want to have the best practices in place.