Chemical plants

  • Chemical safetyHead of Chemical Safety Board resigns under WH pressure, lawmakers’ criticism

    Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board(CSB), resigned after increased pressure from lawmakers and at the White House’s request. Under Moure-Eraso, complaints have risen regarding poor management, his use of a personal e-mail account for agency work, “abuse of power, employee retaliation, and lack of honesty in his communications with Congress,” according to an 18 March letter from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.C

  • Chemical plant safetyChemical plants safety must be tightened to prevent a Bhopal-like disaster in the U.S.

    Late last week, hundreds of individuals and organizations sent a letter to President Barack Obama to say that time was running out for taking action to protect the U.S. population from the dangers of accidents or deliberate attacks at U.S. chemical plants. As a senator, Obama described chemical facilities in which dangerous chemicals were processed or stored as “stationary weapons of mass destruction spread all across the country.” On 2-3 December 1984, more than 500,000 people in the Indian city of Bhopal were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals from the near-by Union Carbide plant. About 16,000 died and 558,000 injured — 3,900 of them permanently disabled. Security experts say that a Bhopal-like disaster could happen in the United States

  • HazmatCrude-oil train accidents endanger 1.5 million Pennsylvania residents

    About 1.5 million people living in Pennsylvania are in danger if a crude-oil train derails and catches fire, according to an analysis which looked at populations living or working within a half-mile on each side of rail lines where trains haul more than one million gallons of Bakken crude oil at a time. A half-mile is the federal evacuation zone recommended when a crude oil tank car catches fire. Within that evacuation zone are 327 K-12 schools, thirty-seven hospitals, and sixty-one nursing homes in Pennsylvania.

  • Chemical facilities safetySecurity at U.S. chemical plants, and monitoring that security, still fall short

    Security experts, citing a critical Senate report, are warning that the effort by industry and the government to secure U.S. chemical facilities against terrorist attacks has so far been lackluster at best. The Senate report, sponsored by former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), found that after eight years and $595 million dollars spent on efforts to further chemical plant security, there had been only thirty-nine compliance inspections of the 4,011 national facilities at risk. In any event, the current chemical facility security policies apply only to a fraction of the facilities which produce, store, or transport toxic materials around the country. The experts hope that H. R. 4007, which reformed and renewed the 2007 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), and which became Public Law No: 113-254 on 18 December 2014, will improve and accelerate the security work needed at U.S. chemical facilities.

  • Chemical facilitiesChinese ownership of a methanol plant worries Louisiana parish residents

    Roughly 150 petrochemical companies and seventeen refineries operate in a zone between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, an area locals call “Cancer Alley” due to the health concerns that have arisen during the past few decades of industrialization. Residents of St. James Parish have voiced their opposition to a proposed methanol plant in the parish. The plant will be operated by Yuhuang Chemical Inc., a subsidiary of Chinese natural gas giant Shandong Yuhuang. Recently, Shandong Yuhuang, parent company of the proposed plant in St. James, has received bad press in China for reportedly neglecting environmental laws, including releasing toxic emissions in the city of Heze, which environmentalists have connected to rising cancer rates and contaminated water.

  • Chemical facility safetyHouse approves 4-year extension of chemical facility safety legislation

    On 11 December the House approved a 4-year reauthorization of DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram (CFATS), meant to protect U.S. chemical facilities from terrorist attacks. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill(H.R. 4007). Implementing the CFATS program will cost roughly $349 million over fiscal years 2015 to 2019. The CFATS, authorized in Section 550 of the 2007 DHS Appropriations Act, requires industrial facilities with certain levels of use or storage of chemicals to submit information about their chemical holdings to DHS, assess their vulnerabilities, and submit plans to address those vulnerabilities and secure their chemical holdings.

  • Chemical spillsHungarian red mud spill did little long-term damage

    By Tom Marshall

    The aftereffects of the 2010 red mud spill that threatened to poison great swathes of the Hungarian countryside have turned out to be far less harmful than scientists originally feared. The disaster happened when weeks of heavy rain caused a dam to collapse at a containment facility in Ajka in Western Hungary. It released around a million cubic meters of toxic sludge into the Torna-Marcal river system, onto the Hungarian plain and ultimately into the Danube. The mud, a byproduct of refining aluminum from bauxite ore, was dangerously alkaline, extremely salty and contained potentially toxic metals like chromium and vanadium.

  • Chemical plantsA third of American schoolchildren face risk of chemical catastrophe

    Chemical factories, refineries, bleach manufacturing, water and waste water treatment, and other facilities that produce, use, or store significant quantities of certain chemicals identified as hazardous to human health or the environment must report to the Risk Management Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A new interactive map and study find that one in three American schoolchildren attends school within the danger zone of a hazardous chemical facility. They found 19.6 million children in public and private schools in forty-eight states are within the vulnerability zone of at least one chemical facility, according to data the facilities provide to the EPA.

  • Chemical plant safetyTexas chemical plant disaster highlights dangers at similar sites

    Following a deadly 17 April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas which took fifteen lives, officials from the managing company moved to shutter similar sites, including an urban one in Pennsylvania. Among the plants to be closed was an El Dorado Chemical Company plant in Pittsburgh, located right next to residential area and a school – on the site of which the company stored around thirty tons of ammonium nitrate. The city emergency management department was aware that the plant was to be closed, but they were not informed of the date – or the fact that the company chose to move the volatile and toxic material. City leaders say that using thirty-three trains to carry the toxic materials through the city was even more dangerous than leaving it in storage on site.

  • Chemical plant safetyDHS slow to inspect high-risk chemical plants

    Congress passed the $595 million Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram in 2006 to help regulate high-risk chemical facilities, but nearly a year after the massive chemical explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant, a new report found little improvement in securing threats from the U.S. 4,011 high-risk chemical facilities.As of 30 June, DHS has not yet conducted security compliance inspections on 3,972 of the 4,011 high-risk chemical facilities.

  • Chemical plant safetyTexas limits release of information about toxic chemicals storage in the state

    Shortly after the 2013 chemical explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services(DSHS) releasedto several media outlets its list of businesses across the state that store or handle large supplies of chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, the chemical which ignited the explosion. More recently, the department has been working to limit the release of its database of chemical inventories from the public.

  • Ammonium nitrateFederal oversight of ammonium nitrate exceedingly weak

    A new Government Accountability Office(GAO) report found that the federal government has no way of fully knowing which chemical facilities stockammonium nitrate, a widely used fertilizer which was the cause of the explosion last year at a West, Texas fertilizer plan, which resulted in the death of fourteen people – and which was used by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City twenty years ago. Poor data sharing with states, outdated federal policies, and numerous industry exemptions have contributed to a weak federal oversight. Without improved monitoring, regulators “will not know the extent to which dangerous conditions at some facilities may continue to exist,’’ the GAO report said.

  • Chemical facilitiesOne in ten American schoolchildren in school near risky chemical facility

    One year after the fertilizer facility explosion in West, Texas, which destroyed and severely damaged nearby schools, nearly one in ten American schoolchildren live and study within one mile of a potentially dangerous chemical facility. A new study shows that 4.6 million children at nearly 10,000 schools across the country are within a mile of a facility which produces, uses, or stores significant quantities of hazardous chemicals identified by EPA as particularly risky to human health or the environment if they are spilled, released into the air, or are involved in an explosion or fire.

  • Chemical plant securityChemical plant security measure moves forward in the House

    The House Homeland Security Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee are making progress on legislation meant to extend DHS’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standardsprogram, which helps secure commercial chemical plants from terrorist attacks. Several attempts by the House Homeland Security Committee to extend the program have failed due to disagreements with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which also oversees the matter.

  • Chemical spillsW.Va. residents still wary about their drinking water

    The January 2014 chemical spill in West Virginia, which contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 residents, has changed how residents use public water. Authorities claimed the water was safe for consumption on 13 January, since MCHM levels had dropped below a federal safety threshold of one part per million. Residents remain skeptical, with some collecting rain water, and other relying on clean water distributed by non-profits.