"Worst Case Scenario" Unveiled in Case Considering MIC Plant Re-Start

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Mar 05, 2011 in Personal Injury

As a federal judge evaluates whether to allow a re-start to the MIC plant production in Institute, West Virginia, local reporters have obtained a study that reveals the "worst case scenario" if the MIC plant were to suffer a catastrophic industrial accident that injured or killed thousands . The Charlotte Gazette obtained a copy of a 2008 study that modeled the worst case scenario under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the United States Chemical Safety Board.

Production at the West Virginia MIC plant, which is owned and operated by Bayer CropScience, has been halted since a serious explosion at the plant in 2008 that killed two employees. In that explosion, a container containing several tons of Methomyl waste shot through the plant leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

Catastrophic tragedy was avoided by simple luck, however. Standing about a quarter of a football field away was a 37,000 pound tank containing many tons of methyl isocyanate, known as MIC, a highly dangerous chemical. MIC was the same chemical involving in a 1984 plant explosion in Bhopal, India, that killed over 2,000 people, according to official reports. Estimates of deaths and catastrophic injuries related to the India MIC explosion - the worst industrial accident in history - are in the hundreds of thousands, with many people suffering permanent debilitating injuries due to exposure to the MIC gas. The Bhopal, India, explosion prompted Congress to create the United States Chemical Safety Board.

MIC Plant Re-Start Temporarily Halted by Federal Judge

The Chief Judge of the Southern District of West Virginia is considering a restraining order against further production using MIC at the Institute, West Virginia, plant. He has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring production until he can evaluate the merits of plaintiff's request for a permanent halt to production using MIC.

According to a report by the Huntington News, the federal judge will consider the risk to the community should the Institute MIC plant suffer a catastrophic event such as a break in a gas pipeline "inside [or] outside a dike." The "worst case scenario" for one of these types of explosions is that anyone within four miles of the explosion will suffer immediate harm or death. Estimates are that 300,000 people might be seriously affected by such an explosion. In a summary of the 2008 accident by the Suburban Emergency Management Project, the report indicates that the Institute plant is located about 12 miles from Charleston's city center. About 500 people work at the plant.

The federal judge has yet to make a final ruling on production at the Institute, West Virginia, plant.

Source: Huntington News.net, "Modeling Document Found 2008 WV Explosion Could Have Left Thousands Exposed to MIC; 300,000 Live in Worst Case Scenario Vulnerability Zone," Tony Rutherford, 02/28/11

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