UPDATED: Homeland Security Chemical Engineering Expert to Research Whether Bhopal Catastrophe Possible at Bayer

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
UPDATED: Homeland Security Chemical Engineering  Expert to Research Whether Bhopal Catastrophe Possible at Bayer

CHARLESTON, WV (HNN) – An esteemed chemical engineering safety expert who participated in the investigation of the break-up of the Challenger space shuttle has been appointed to determine the suitability of the Bayer plant for resuming MIC production.

  Federal Judge  Joseph Goodwin approved Sam Mannan, PE, CSP, of Texas A & M University as a court appointed expert.

According to the order issue Feb. 23, the expert’s duties include the physical inspection of “those portions of the Bayer CropScience facility that he deems relevant;” inspection of relevant “documents and electronically stored information”;  and perform “other necessary inspection or investigation” to assess the process safety of the “manufacture, storage, and transport of MIC at the Bayer facility” and determine the “probabilistic risk of a catastrophic incident involving MIC at the Bayer facility.”  

In addition, the court has extended the temporary restraining order until March 28, 2011 at 5 p.m. This will allow “development of an appropriate evidentiary record.” A hearing on the plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Junction will begin at 9 a.m. March 21.”

In a statement from Bayer CropScience, Steve Hedrick, vice president and head of the Bayer CropScience Institute Industrial Park says the they are pleased with the court appointing a technical expert to help assist in making its decision about operations at the plant.

“We are pleased that the court appointed a technical expert to assist it in making its decision about our operations,” said Hedrick. “While we are very sensitive to the effect this may have on the growers who depend on our products, we supported the decision to delay the hearing so that the court has the opportunity to obtain answers to all of its questions.”

The news release from Bayer states that they have  invested more than $36 million to enhance its operational safety.

“It is our hope that this matter will be successfully resolved and that we can resume our safe production soon after March 28,” said Hedrick.

One of Mannan collegues , John Astad, commented on Facebook that the Bayer incident is "an excellent example of what Dr. Mannan is referring to [in his testimony before Congress]. The Chemical Safety Board final report stated the "facility response was not integrated with local emergency planners. "This is where an understanding of National Incident Management System is vital," Astad wrote.

Dr. Mannan mentioned Bhopal in his testimony on post 9/11 preparations for homeland security issues such as chemical plant safety.

"One very stark lesson from the 9/11 events is that the 'first' first-responders are usually members of the public. Whether natural or man-made, disasters will continue to come. However, as we have seen with the 9/11 events, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and chemical incidents such as the Bhopal disaster, planning and response is crucial in being able to reduce the consequences and to recover from the disaster more rapidly."

Dr. Mannan emphasized the need for reserch on "decision making, particularly under stress," when testifying on chemical facility anti-terrorism.

One of the courts assignments to the expert is to determine whether the amount of MIC at the Institute plant has the potential for Bhopal type consequences.

Both Bayer and the plaintiffs were pleased with his appointment.

According to the court's order, the expert will be available in mid-March for depositions.





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