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Lawyer: Toxic Chemical Made until 2010

Mon, 02/14/2011 - 5:16am

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Bayer CropScience continued making a highly toxic chemical at the center of a federal lawsuit at its Institute plant until last August, a company lawyer said Friday.

Thomas Hurney Jr. made the comment during a procedural hearing on a lawsuit that seeks tighter controls over the manufacture and use of methyl isocyanate at the company's Institute plant.

The lawsuit was filed by area residents and others who fear an accidental release of the chemical, commonly referred to as MIC. An 1984 MIC leak at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killed thousands. The Institute plant was formerly owned by Union Carbide.

Bayer CropScience had planned to resume producing MIC at the plant next week.

Local concern about MIC resurfaced after a 2008 fatal explosion at the plant. The explosion occurred in a unit near the MIC unit. The chemical is used to produce pesticide.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin temporarily barred Bayer CropScience from resuming production of MIC for 14 days. Plaintiffs are seeking a more permanent injunction.

"It's my understand that MIC was produced until August 2010," Hurney said. "They've made significant changes to the process."

Friday's hearing centered on how the parties will turn over documents and interview witnesses before a scheduled Feb. 25 hearing.

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