Layoff Averted At FMC Facility

By Edward Peeks
Business/Labor Editor

Charleston Gazette
March 16, 1977

FMC Corp. and Environmental Protection Agency officials reached an agreement Tuesday on safeguards to prevent further spills of carbon tetrachloride in the Kanawha River, averting the layoff of 800 employes at the South Charleston plant.

The agreement was signed by U.S. District Judge Charles Haden, who had granted a temporary restraining order against operation of the tetrachoride [sic] unit at the plant on the request of EPA after several spills in the Kanawha River, a tributary of the Ohio River.

A SPOKESMAN for FMC said the tet unit will begin production when spill containment facilities are completed next week, but operation of other plant units will start immediately. The latter includes units for manufacturing chlorine and other industrial chemicals.

The plant rescinded notices that had gone out to hourly employes about layoffs starting Saturday. The agreement was reached after six days of negotiations.

It covered five basic points to assure safeguards against more spills, including around the clock surveillance by a 20-man team until all diking, spill preventions, containment and monitoring facilities are completed.

OTHER MEASURES call for continuing the operation of a decanting system, installing of a carbon tetracholride [sic] from the existing decanting system and for continuation of a diking, early warning surveillance system.

"The agency is very pleased with this settlement, which not only protects the public by assuring there will be minimal levels of carbon tetrachloride in downstream water, but also assures there will be minimum disruptions of jobs in the South Charleston plant," said Jeff Miller, EPA's deputy administrator for water enforcement.

The spills, EPA officials maintained, endangered the health of 1.28 million residents relying on the Ohio River for water.

Gregory R. Gorrell, who represented FMC before Judge Haden in Parkersburg, said after the agreement was reached, "It has been FMC's position all along that the health of persons downstream from the plant was not adversely affected. But this agreement does insure the protection of health of those people under the standards that EPA has been citing."

MILLER NOTED that one carbon treatment system will be installed before carbon tet production can resume and another one has to be installed by Jan. 1, 1978.

The agreement calls for FMC to hire an outside engineering firm within 14 days to study the carbon tet unit. Consultants will make recommendations to reinforce safeguards against spills.

Business and Industry

West Virginia Archives and History