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Bayer unit pays $5.6 million to settle chemical accident charges

Bayer unit pays $5.6 million to settle chemical accident charges

Bayer CropScience A.G. will pay $5.6 million to resolve violations related to an explosion that killed two employees in 2008, federal regulators announced.

The Monheim am Rhein, Germany-based life sciences company settled the alleged violations of federal chemical accident prevention laws with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency related to the incident at its Institute, West Virginia facility, the agencies said Monday in a statement.

About $4.2 million of the settlement will be used to improve emergency preparedness and response at the facility and protect the nearby Kanawha River, with another $452,000 directed toward implementing safety measures at Bayer's chemical storage facilities across the United States, in addition to a $975,000 penalty, according to the statement.

“Failures by a chemical manufacturer to comply with safety, accident prevention, and response requirements can have catastrophic consequences,” John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in the statement.

Bayer will implement steps to prevent future chemical releases at its facilities in Michigan, Missouri, Texas and West Virginia by improving inspections to identify potential workplace safety issues and standardize facility safety operating procedures, according to the statement.

The company also will conduct emergency response exercises with local responders and ensure proper certification of facility environmental management systems at the West Virginia facility. A majority of these actions must be completed within three years, according to the statement.

“The tragic accident at the Bayer CropScience facility in West Virginia underscores the need for hazardous chemicals to be stored and handled in accordance with the law to protect worker health and the environment,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in the statement.

The consent decree governing the settlement has been lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and is subject to court approval and a 30-day public comment period, the statement said.

Since the accident, operations at the West Virginia facility have maintained a safety record that stands out in its excellence within the chemical industry, with an 8-week Occupational Safety and Health Administration process safety management inspection in 2011 finding no violations, the company said in a statement issued Monday.

“The Bayer CropScience operations at Institute today are very different from those of seven years ago,” Jim Covington, head of the Bayer CropScience operations at the Institute Industrial Park, said in the statement. “Improved emergency communications, strengthened operating procedures, regular safety audits – these and more all serve to help safeguard our employees and the community.”

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