$30,000 fine levied against FMC Corp. for '98 herbicide accident


The state has fined FMC Corp. $30,000 for an accident last year at its plant in southern Baltimore that pumped 600 pounds of a popular herbicide into the air.

The state Department of the Environment also required FMC to buy and retire $30,000 worth of nitrogen oxide pollution credits for this summer because of the air-quality violations. The credits allow manufacturers to release more pollutants into the air than they normally would be allowed to. Retiring them will keep six tons of the nitrogen oxide, which contributes to ozone pollution, out of the air this summer, said department spokesman Quentin Banks.

The accident occurred about 7 p.m. May 15 when an improperly calibrated meter caused a batch of the herbicide Command to overheat and spew into the air. Residents of nearby Wagner's Point said they saw a gas cloud that night and complained of watery eyes, nasal bleeding and sore throats.

In June, the department ordered the plant to stop producing the herbicide, and FMC agreed in September to re-evaluate its process for manufacturing Command. The department announced the fine and the pollution-credits requirement yesterday.

The company has redesigned its vent system, upgraded valves and meters and reviewed its other processes to avoid a similar accident, said Parker Dean, the plant's health safety and environmental manager.

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