Goodwin

CHARLESTON -- A federal judge is giving residents who live near Bayer CropScience's Institute plant time to amend their lawsuit against the company.

The residents filed the suit against Bayer to halt production of its potentially dangerous methyl isocyanate, or MIC.

On Friday, Bayer announced during a federal court hearing as part of the lawsuit that it was abandoning its plans to resume production of the toxic chemical.

According to court documents, U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin on Monday gave the plaintiffs 10 days to amend their complaint.

Goodwin gave Bayer 20 days to respond to any amended complaint.

Lawyers for Bayer have tried to convince Goodwin that the Institute plant is safe and that its MIC unit should be allowed to resume production. However, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has advised the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct more thorough inspections of the unit before it is restarted.

Goodwin filed his original temporary restraining order prohibiting Bayer from making the MIC chemical on Feb. 10. The judge issued his order at the request of the 16 residents, some of whom live near the Institute Industrial Park. In a Feb. 23 order, Goodwin extended the temporary restraining order against Bayer until March 28.

MIC was produced at the Institute site through the end of August 2010, when the unit was shutdown to allow the construction work associated with completing the MIC safety enhancement project that was announced in 2009. It was expected to start back up last month.

MIC also was involved in a 1984 leak from a former Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. The leak killed thousands and sickened even more.

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