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Company Says Proposed Plant Unlike Bhopal

February 8, 1985

LIVINGSTON, Scotland (AP) _ Union Carbide Corp. said Friday that a gas blending plant it proposes to build near here is ″completely different″ from the pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, where a gas leak in December killed an estimated 2,000 people.

The American-owned company sought to reassure residents of Livingston, who oppose construction of the $6.6 million plant because of safety considerations.

Union Carbide spokesman Malcolm Cowing said small quantities of more than 100 chemicals would be blended at the plant for use by the electronics industry. The plant would be ″completely different (from the Bhopal plant) in the quantities and types of gas used,″ Cowing said.

The plant would not use methyl isocyanate, the chemical that leaked from the Bhopal plant on Dec. 3. In addition to the deaths, tens of thousands of people became sick because of the gas.

Hundreds of angry citizens walked out of a Union Carbide public meeting in Livingston on Wednesday. Dr. John Harvey, managing director of the firm’s British subsidiary, Union Carbide U.K., was shouted down as he attempted to give assurances about safety at the proposed plant.

At a Feb. 15 meeting, Livingston’s planning authority will consider Union Carbide’s application to build a plant near the town, 13 miles west of Edinburgh.

The most toxic of the gases used at the Scottish plant would be arsine and phosphene, stored in containers a fraction of the size of the containers used at Bhopal, Cowing said.

Arsine would be kept in 22-pound cyclinders and ″there will only ever be six at one time in the plant,″ Cowing told The Associated Press. ″We’re talking about very, very much smaller quantities of gas,″ he said.

If a cyclinder of arsine leaked and all safety devices failed, there still would be ″no dangerous effects″ on the nearest Livingston residents about 500 yards away, said a report prepared for Union Carbide by the independent engineering firm Cremer and Warner.

″The toxic dose at the nearest building would be lower than the lowest lethal dose that’s ever been reported,″ said Peter Waite, a spokesman for the London-based consultants.

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