New Report Questions Chemical Security

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By Stephanie Tyrpak

WSIL --   In the wake of September 11th, the government took a closer look at protecting chemical sites from terrorism.  The idea was to boost security for thousands of plants across the country, including many in Illinois. However, a new report says little has been done.

The nation got a powerful reminder of what could go wrong with dangerous chemicals in 2013. A fertilizer plant in West, Texas exploded. The blast killed 15 people and decimated the town.

The U.S. started considering chemical dangers after 9/11 and began new standards in 2006. The program is called Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards or CFATS.

You can read the full report here.

The goal was to tighten security at more than 4,000 high-risk plants and storage areas. But a congressional report found 99% of those haven't been inspected under the program.

Most of the at-risk sites can be found in 10 states. Illinois is in that group, and local emergency managers know some dangerous materials are in the area.

Several facilities throughout the region that have anything from anhydrous ammonia, which is you know used for farming and agriculture purposes, all the way to larger facilities like Honeywell down in Massac County,” said Perry County EMA Coordinator David Searby.

Searby’s role focuses on how to prevent disasters and respond to spills or leaks. A state database gives him a good idea of what he needs to prepare for at local sites.

We know what the chemicals are,” said Searby. “We know the estimated amount of product.”

However, the report says some facilities may be trying to avoid security rules by moving chemicals into rail cars. That’s another danger that Perry County knows all too well from the 2003 Tamaroa Derailment.

If a person ever sits there at the railroad tracks and watches a train go by, there's some pretty serious type of chemicals on those trains,” said Searby.

Congress is now working on a fix for the program. The latest legislation would make the program simpler for the government and chemical companies. That legislation passed a senate committee earlier this week.

 

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