Modeling Document Found 2008 WV Explosion Could Have Left Thousands Exposed to MIC; 300,000 Live in Worst Case Scenario Vulnerability Zone

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Modeling Document Found 2008 WV Explosion Could Have Left Thousands Exposed to MIC; 300,000 Live in Worst Case Scenario Vulnerability Zone

(Based in part on Evidence/Reporting Contained in a CSB study, Congressional study, and Charleston Gazette reports.)

CHARLESTON, WV (HNN) – Following a federal court extending its Temporary Restraining Order preventing a re-start of MIC production at the Institute, WV, Bayer CropScience plant, the Charleston Gazette obtained a worst case scenario modeling study on the 2008 accident.

The document was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. It contains the "worst case scenario" modeling assumptions regarding an MIC leak at the plant.

One of the issues that Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin will consider when holding the evidentiary hearing to block the restart of MIC production is risk to the communities.

While attending the Appalachian Film Festival, HNN asked a long-time professor at West Virginia State University about his concerns related both to the 2008 accident and the prospect of MIC re-start up. Remaining unidentified (except that he is a member of People Concerned about MIC) , he had a two-fold response. Generally, “it’s something you learn to live with,” adding that after a while the anxiety drops out of your head. However, he acknowledged that when “sirens blow” anxieties reappear.  

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board had the report compiled by TAI Engineers. The CSB determined not to make the report public, such as at Congressional hearings, as Bayer had stated it would cease MIC production and storage  after 18 months, according to a Gazette report.

Returning to the 2008 explosion in Institute, WV, CSB investigators wanted Congress about the proximity of the methomyl-Larvin explosion to the plant’s MIC “day tank.”

The explosion caused a “residue treater” weighing thousands of pounds to “rocket 50 feet through the plant twisting steel beams, severing pipes and destroying virtually everything in its path,” the House committee report stated.

CSB Chairman John Breshland had told lawmakers “if the MIC tank had been damaged by a powerful projectile, there might have been a catastrophic impact on workers, responders and the public.” The Congressional report said the consequences “could have eclipsed the 1984 disaster in India.”

The modeling study obtained by the newspaper purportedly did not exist, according to investigations supervisor John Vorderbrueggen. At the time he told Kanawha Valley residents at a public hearing , the board “intended to do” such a study. But, it did and the supervisor could not explain how he forgot about it.

“Air Dispersion Modeling Results” dated August 28, 2008 (   advances two scenarios --- a pipe rupture inside the dike and a rupture outside the dike. Specifically the TAI Engineers were asked to “document results of the air dispersion modeling to determine the potentially affected zone for an MIC release.”  Both scenarios assume “evaporating liquid pool releases.”

Scenario A assumes a “line guillotine rupture outside the concrete dike without water deluge or fire.” The liquid spill assumes 1712.5 gallons in an area of 288 feet that occurs “instantaneously.”

Under that scenario, the maximum distance to “toxic endpoint” is 3.9 miles with those people exposed within 1.2 miles enduring an “immediately dangerous to life or health” (IDLH) exposure concentration.

Scenario B assumes that a carbofuran transfer line guillotine break “without water deluge or fire and without any containment at a height of 20 feet above grade.” This liquid spills is assumed to be 560 pounds (70 gallons)  over ten minutes in an open area

Here the toxic endpoint is 2.8 miles with the IDLH concentration as 1.1 miles.

TAI states, “ the program does NOT take into account the actual terrain. The facility is located in a valley and MIC is a dense gas. It is therefore not likely that the plume would actually travel as far as predicted unless it was traveling parallel to the centerline of the valley… Also, if the release rate is relatively low, the vapor-air mixture that is generated may be neutrally buoyant even if the vapor is denser than air because the mixture may contain a relatively small fraction of the denser than air vapor.”

Rusty Marks of the Gazette summed it perfectly: “Thousands of people living within four miles of the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute would have been exposed to harmful levels of MIC if the contents of the tank located near an August 2008 explosion had been released…. Those within a mile of the sprawling facility could have been exposed to MIC concentrations classified as immediately dangerous to life or health,” based on the US Chemical Safety Board study.

According to the Plaintiffs’ Memorandum in Support of a Temporary Restraining Order, Bayer announced elimination of “above-ground storage” of MIC, “substantial volumes of MIC would continue to be stored underground at Institute.”  Bayer has not adopted a procedure initiated by Dupont after Bhopal of only producing MIC in volumes “immediately consumed by other chemical processes, thereby eliminating the risks associated with ongoing, on-site storage.”

Those living near the plant “face the imminent risk of a catastrophic industrial disaster , potentially causing bodily injury and/or loss of life to thousands,” argues attorney William V. DePaulo. “Another 18 months of operation of Bayer’s accident prone and recklessly operated pesticide facility [place] an imminent risk to a population center of 300,000 people in the 25-mile radius which Bayer itself defines as the ‘vulnerability zone’ in a worst case scenario).

However, DePaulo at a public hearing asked a question that the “model” does not --- “if we’re exposing 300,000 people to this , how many are going to be dead?”

To date, no one has quantified that figure.


LINK TO CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY OF John S. Bresland, Chairman/CEO U.S. Chemical Safety Board:


Editor’s Note: The Bayer plant has invested millions in upgrades to the plant since 2008, which it argues increases its safety for use of MIC.  However, EPA regulations for developing these studies of worst case scenarios require assumptions that SAFETY SYSTEMS DO NOT WORK.