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Staunton, Va. (AP)-- The Ortho Bugicide Plant here has experienced a wide range of troubles in its two months of operation, though its managers and engineers as well as local and state politicians are confident the plant will prove to be all that was initially promised.

The grass is still spotty around the great mauve concrete and steel Ortho Bugicide industrial plant, but already the plant has been shut down for a week of inspections. On June 23rd, the factory was running at full capacity, daily producing 2700 tons of a variety insecticides for field, forest, and farm. But then, ten minutes before midnight, an unnamed janitor, since determined to have been under the influence of marijuana, stumbled into an "emergency factory floor protection feature" and caused the release of several million gallons of concentrated insecticide.

The details of this release are still not entirely clear, but it appears that, according to an employee who did not want her name disclosed,

"The `emergency factory floor protection feature' was really just a big red handle that [when pulled] makes all four 60-foot-high pots of bug killer get tossed up through the roof of the [factory] building... [our supervisors] always told us not to pull it or we'd get fired."

It appears that the large pots of insecticide were caught by the enormous suction of the plant's air intake portals. According to Engineer Bill Uvatainor of Virginia Tech,

"Those d--- kettles were so heavy --they were made of cast iron-- that they just smashed through the bird-exclusion-grate on the air intakes and crumpled, spilling their contents into the turbines, causing an aerosol to be formed. This aerosol blew through the air ducts along the roof and was so dense that the ducts ruptured explosively, sending a toxic cloud out over the whole eastern third of Staunton and on up into Verona."

This cloud was apparently responsible for some dizziness and nausea among residents. Kitty Haerbaugh of Saint Statler Way expressed the feelings of many affected residents when she said, "I got this headache and my eyes stung and watered real bad, so I called my doctor and he said I didn't have to worry, so I went to bed." Local police authorities didn't feel an evacuation was necessary. According to Staunton Police spokesman Jim Soques, "We felt that since it was bug killer we didn't have to worry. Bug killer kills bugs, not people. Otherwise they'd just call it `killer' now wouldn't they?"

The accidental insecticide release culminated two months of smaller problems at the plant. The air intakes tended to become clogged with birds every couple hours, necessitating the installation of huge mechanical wiper blades to keep their grills clean. The fluid effluent from the plant proved less clean than had been hoped as evidenced by accelerated riprap decay miles downstream. And air quality near the plant is not the "Class I under the Clean Air Act" mentioned in the brochure in the plant's lobby. Indeed, residents nearby claim that paint has started pealing on their cars and houses. Bill Tuffstraw, whose house abuts the plant's grounds says, "My trees are all brown, and my grass don't hardly grow, but I don't care no how...I'm happy I got me a job ove'ar."

Representatives from Ortho admit that there have been problems with the new plant, but nothing out of the ordinary for a new plant of this size. Claims Ortho Vice President Peter Inyirash, "When I worked as an engineer at Union Carbide, they built an insecticide plant over in my home country of India, and it was five years before we had all the bugs worked out. We had factory floor fires, we had kettle breaches, we had air intake contamination. You name it. But we, the insecticide industry, have learned a lot...and this is shown by the relatively smooth operation of the new Staunton Plant." Ortho's Administrator of Truth Reporting to the Media, Gary Bowls, could not be reached for comment, but in a statement left with his secretary he claimed "I would like you to know that the Ortho plant is not fully operational yet. We fully expect the plant to eventually be a non-polluting, quality-product-providing employer and citizen of Virginia."

Local and State politicians have been quick to jump to the defense of the new Ortho Plant. Governor Allen, who toured the plant at its ribbon cutting, recently told an audience, "Why do the environmentalists have to pick through every little glitch when an industry starts up? I'm sure if you looked at those environmentalists' private lives, you'd see some blemishes too. I fully support the Ortho Bugicide Plant for its commitment to growth, opportunity and the environment in Virginia." Staunton City Councilman P. Yuking Green told a local television station that, "I wish the people of the Valley would realize the great blessing the Ortho plant is. If extremist environmentalists want a perfect environment, why don't they move to Alaska?" Even Oliver North has weighed in for Ortho, telling a crowd, "Why can't the Shenandoah Valley do what New Jersey had a chance to do? Ortho gets a big semper fi from me!"

EPA investigators are currently checking the plant for glitches that could cause future problems. But, like nearly everyone else, they have expressed confidence that the plant will soon be fully back into production. EPA Assistant Co-District Administrator for Air Quality Joseph C. Knoweaval recently said, "The emergency factory floor protection feature will be replaced with a smaller lever behind a glass panel. Also, a patented new scrubber system employing a Kryptonitic Perpetual Rotating Cold Fusing Catalytic Subassembly (KPRCFCS) will finally bring the air emissions up to standard."

A local environmental group, The Blue Ridge Roadside Cleanup Crew, is only slightly concerned. Spokesman Ralph N. Johns has stated, "I think [Ortho] will get it right eventually. I only wish they'd do something about those dandylions in their lawn."

The Ortho Bugicide Plant will be having an open house on Thursday. Free tee shirts and refreshments will be available.

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