Environmental Protection

Report Identifies Safer Processes for Chemical Facilities

More than 80 million Americans live within range of a worst-case toxic gas cloud from at least one of the nation's 101 most dangerous chemical facilities, which security experts say are potential terrorist targets. Millions more are at risk along delivery routes—more than 90 percent of these facilities ship or receive their highest-hazard chemical in vulnerable railcars or trucks, according to a Nov. 19 press release.

This threat can be substantially reduced by converting facilities to safer and more secure chemicals or processes, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress, "Chemical Security 101: What You Don't Have Can't Leak, or be Blown Up by Terrorists." Temporary chemical security standards enacted two years ago (and set to expire in 2009) focus almost entirely on physical security measures, such as adding gates and guards.

"There is tremendous untapped potential to protect American communities from chemical terrorism by investing in safer and more secure technologies," said Paul Orum, who prepared the report as a consultant to the Center for American Progress. "Since gates and guards may fail, the only certain way to protect communities is to remove the danger with available alternatives."

The report specifically identifies readily available alternatives for most of the 101 most dangerous chemical facilities. Adopting these alternatives, which are already used by other similar facilities, would eliminate or substantially reduce the danger to millions of Americans. In particular:

•Thirty bleach plants could generate chlorine on-site without rail shipment and bulk storage. These plants are found in Phoenix; Glendale, Ariz.; Los Angeles; Ontario, Calif.; Sante Fe Springs, Calif. (2 locations); Jacksonville; Miami (2 locations); Forest Park, Ga.; Denver; Lemont, Ill.; Chicago; Willow Springs, Ill.; Dupo, Ill.; Beech Grove, Ind.; Riverview, Mich.; St. Paul, Minn.; Merrimack, N.H.; South Kearny, N.J.; Henderson, Nev.; Warwick, N.Y.; Barberton, Ohio; Cincinnati; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Houston (3 locations); and Tacoma, Wash.

•Fifteen water utilities could convert from chlorine gas (and sometimes sulfur dioxide gas) to alternatives that include liquid bleach or ultraviolet light. These utilities are found in Granada Hills, Calif.; Hialeah, Fla.; Miami; Ft. Lauderdale; Tampa, Fla.; Detroit; Maplewood, Minn.; Nashville; Wylie, Texas; Sunnyvale, Texas; Dallas; Euless, Texas; Grand Prairie, Texas; Houston; and Salt Lake City.

•Eight petroleum refineries could substitute toxic hydrofluoric acid, used in refining crude oil, with sulfuric acid or emerging solid acid catalysts. These refineries are found in Channahon, Ill.; Lemont, Ill.; Chalmette, La.; Meraux, La; St. Paul Park, Minn.; Paulsboro, N.J.; Trainer, Pa.; and Philadelphia.

•A variety of safer, more secure alternatives are available to 21 facilities that receive chemicals by rail or truck for use in making such diverse products as oil additives, water treatment chemicals, and materials for bulletproof vests. These facilities are found in Los Angeles; Pittsburg, Calif.; Torrance, Calif.; Sauget, Ill. (2 locations); Lyons, Ill.; Elwood, Ill.; East Chicago, Ind.; Hammond, Ind.; Baltimore; Detroit; St. Louis; Deepwater, N.J.; Linden, N.J.; Cincinnati; West Carrollton, Ohio; Memphis; Baytown, Texas; Pasadena, Texas; Houston; and LaPorte, Texas.

To read the report, click here: Chemical Security 101: What You Don't Have Can't Leak, or be Blown Up by Terrorists.

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