Chemical Plant Safety & Security

Cuyahoga County Chemical Safety

Chemical Facility Security and Safety: Inherently Safer Chemical Processes

Hazardous Chemical Rail Transport

House Committee Fails to Mandate Chemical Plant Safety & Disaster Prevention

On June 22, 2011, the House Homeland Security Committee approved H.R. 901, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Security Authorization Act of 2011. The bill does not require increased chemical facility safety upgrades or chemical disaster preparation. In addition, it exempts thousands of potentially high risk chemical and port facilities, including “approximately 2,400 water treatment facilities and 400-600 port facilities, including 125 of 150 U.S. refineries” and prevents plant employees from participating in assessing vulnerabilities and developing security plans. More than 100 million Americans, however, live in disastrous proximity to high-risk chemical plants and a terrorist attack or facility malfunction could kills hundreds to thousands of neighbors within 30 minutes.

Read more at Greenpeace and OMB Watch.

Bhopal- 26th Anniversary: The World’s Worst Chemical Plant Disaster

26th Anniversary of Bhopal Disaster: Twenty-six years after a horrific industrial accident killed thousands and injured tens of thousands, the people of Bhopal, India, are still suffering. In 2009, EHW sponsored a U.S. tour which sought support for justice from Dow Chemical and stopped in Cleveland.

Decades Later, Toxic Sludge Torments Bhopal: Hundreds of tons of waste still languish inside a tin-roofed warehouse in a corner of the old grounds of the Union Carbide pesticide factory here, nearly a quarter-century after a poison gas leak killed thousands and turned this ancient city into a notorious symbol of industrial disaster.

Bhopal Disaster Risk at the Institute, West Virginia Bayer Lethal Chemical Explosion

  • CSB’s New Safety Video “Fire in the Valley” Shows Catastrophic Explosion and Fire at Bayer CropScience Facility in 2008
    March 21, 2011
    The 2008 explosion at Bayer CropScience that killed two workers was found to be a result of a runaway chemical reaction inside a residue treater pressure vessel, influenced by inadequately-trained operators, unchecked computer processing equipment and a bypassed safety interlock. In the explosion, the over-pressurized residue treater struck a large tank of methyl isocyanate, the chemical that killed thousands in Bhopal, India in 1984. “Fire in the Valley” shows Bayer’s refusal to provide information to 911 after the explosion and includes CSB’s key safety recommendations for the Bayer facility. To learn more visit: www.csb.gov.
  • CSB Contracts Independent Study on Reducing Inventory of Toxic Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) at West Virginia Chemical Site
    Chemical Safety Board, News Release
    September 02, 2010
    The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has commenced a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study on the feasibility of reducing or eliminating the inventory of highly toxic methyl isocyanate stored at the Bayer CropScience pesticide manufacturing complex located in Institute, West Virginia, near Charleston. . . “As long as MIC continues to be stored and used at the Bayer plant in any significant amount, the surrounding community and the workforce have a legitimate right to know whether everything possible has been done to reduce or eliminate the potential hazard,” said CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso.  “We hope the National Academy study will serve as an important model for both Bayer and the rest of the chemical industry for how to assess and reduce toxic chemical hazards.”
  • Lawmakers Say Chemical Company Withheld Information about Explosion
    April 22, 2009
    When a huge explosion occurred last August at a West Virginia chemical plant, managers refused for several hours to tell emergency responders the nature of the blast or the toxic chemical it released, and they later misused a law intended to keep information from terrorists to try to stop federal investigators from learning what had happened…

Case study: “POLO: Petrochemical Disaster Risks for Buenos Aires: Fires, Explosions, Toxic Gas Clouds” by Fred Millar, Consultant on Chemical Accident Prevention and Homeland Security, Washington D.C.  April 2010

  • This as yet unpublished draft report by a veteran chemical disaster expert and environmental advocate includes accident history, analyses, risk estimates, photos and charts on worldwide chemical disasters and risks that are valuable for citizens and public officials in all major chemical communities.  BP Oil Company’s own prestigious Baker Panel made a statement, in January 2007, after investigating the BP Texas City Refinery explosions disaster that killed 15 onsite workers :  “We are under no illusion that deficiencies in process safety culture, management, or corporate oversight [which we found in BP] are limited to BP… Preventing process accidents requires vigilance. The passing of time without a process accident is not necessarily an indication that all is well and may contribute to a dangerous and growing sense of complacency… People can forget to be afraid.”
  • The “Polo” report’s focus in on the serious disaster risks posed to workers, residents, and visitors in  the densely populated Buenos Aires area by the massive petrochemical complex called Polo Petroquimico [“Polo”] at Dock Sud in Municipalidad Avellaneda. Polo includes scores of large petrochemical storage tanks and the Shell CAPSA refinery which uses the notoriously dangerous Hydrogen Fluoride catalyst.  [The transportation of chemicals to and from the site pose another set of serious risks as well, not covered here.]  As one of the world’s premier toxic gas dispersion experts Dr. Ron Koopman has said, “[In a very rapid release of hydrogen fluoride from a refinery] it would be possible for thousands of people to die… With regard to [siting of] refineries in the midst of a large population, it’s an extremely bad idea.” [“Mega Disasters: Toxic Cloud” DVD 138840, 50 min, http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=78002&v=history_show_mega-disasters ]
  • The report discusses how citizens, chemical workers, and governments all over the world have been playing catch-up in trying to assess the risks of, respond to serious chemical releases from, and reduce the risks of such oil and chemical facilities, which have for decades rapidly grown more numerous, larger and complex, more polluting and more dangerous, even in metropolitan areas. ®  Fred Millar 2010   703-979-9191   fmillar@erols.com

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