Letter to the editor

Your editorial Sept. '99, p.6 missed the really critical section of the legislation (S.B. 880). The bill also contained provisions amending Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act as amended in 1990. This was done by redefining the hazard posed by fuels. Now "...a flammable substance when used as a fuel ever hear of a nonflammable fuel? ... solely because of the explosive or flammable properties of the substance, unless a fire or explosion caused by the substance will result in acute adverse health effects from human exposure eliminates environmental effects! to the substance or its combustion byproducts, other than those caused by the heat of the fire or impact of the explosion."

Non sequitur! What a piece of sophistry! Now think and believe three impossible things before breakfast! Anyone seen the Red Queen being chased by Big Brother lately?

Our "representatives" in Congress have subverted a carefully crafted piece of protective law and regulation (aided and abetted by some chicken-hearted action by the EPA!) by turning it upside down to produce a meaningless piece of arrant nonsense. The 112(r) list divided substance of concern by toxic or blast/heat effects.

Looks like a complete abrogation of the mandate to protect the health, safety and general welfare for the protection of the marginal welfare of a particular microscopic minority.

Interestingly, this was done in the face of a long history of death, injury and destruction caused by "the heat of the fire or impact of the explosion." I haven't heard of victims of unburned fuel or byproducts of combustion. I'm sure the two firefighters in Albert City, Iowa, weren't. I suspect the fragments of the propane tank, and the now legally harmless heat of the fire and impact of the blast were the proximal causes of their death Ñ not fuel or byproducts of combustion.

This was neatly smoke-screened in all the RTK right-to-know and anti-terrorism hype. When was the last time anyone heard of that being the problem? I'm much more concerned about inadequately trained people dealing with very dangerous materials without proper process safety and regulation. Voluntary standards are not worth the paper they are printed on, as the propane industry has shown with its accident history.

Think of this as a public health problem, or are we going to go the way of the Kansas Board of (non)Education? What's next, another attempt to make pi equal to three, or repeal the law of gravity?

Wade Whitlock, MPH
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This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1999 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Author

Gerald F. Connell, ChE is a consultant, retired after 30 years with Capital Controls Group, Severn Trent Service Inc., Colmar, Pa. Mr. Connell is author of "The Chlorination/Chloramination Handbook," published by the American Water Works, and a forthcoming "Chlorination/Dechlorination Handbook" to be published by WEF.