Union Carbide Uses Up Remaining Methyl Isocyanate
INSTITUTE, W.Va. (AP) _ Union Carbide Corp., being sued and cited over its handling of methyl isocyanate, says it has disposed of most of its remaining stocks of the chemical that killed more than 2,000 people last month in India.
Federal and state inspectors supervised the six-hour neutralization of Union Carbide’s final 3,000 pounds of the chemical, known as MIC, company spokesman Dick Henderson said Thursday. A few barrels were saved for testing, he said.
The processing, which produced a chemical less harmful than MIC, ″went pretty smooth″ and there were no major problems, Henderson said. The resulting chemical was dumped into the Kanawha River, officials said.
The Institute plant is nearly identical to and 10 times larger than Union Carbide’s MIC manufacturing unit in Bhopal, India, where the chemical leaked Dec. 3.
After the Bhopal disaster, MIC production was halted at the two plants, the only two in the world that produced the chemical. Henderson said he expects Union Carbide to release a report next month based on its study of the disaster and that the company will use the document to decide whether to resume MIC production.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency released a report this week detailing 28 MIC leaks at Institute over the last five years that had not been disclosed. The EPA said many of the leaks should have been reported to the agency.
Meanwhile, 37 lawsuits have been filed against Union Carbide stemming from the Bhopal disaster. They involve billions of dollars in claims, many of which contend that Union Carbide handled MIC negligently.
Since the disaster, the company has been working to draw down its remaining store of MIC at Insitute.
Company officials said Jan. 10 that all remaining MIC at Institute had been converted into pesticide. But state officials disclosed this week that another batch of 3,000 pounds had been discovered.
Government officials said Thursday’s process had never before been used to dispose of such large quantities of the chemical, but they said it posed little danger.
″We believe it’s safe,″ said Tim Laraway of the state Department of Natural Resources.
Instead of being converted into pesticide, the chemical was neutralized in a pollution-control device that normally is used only in an emergency. The resulting chemical, dimethylurea, then was dumped into the Kanawha River, said Laraway.
State Air Pollution Control Commissioner Carl Beard said the dimethylurea is more stable and less harmful than MIC and that the amounts dumped in the river will not pose a hazard.
Security guards at the sprawling plant barred reporters from observing the neutralization process, which was monitored by officials from the DNR, the APCC, the EPA and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.