Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 08:11:49 -0400
Reply-To: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Ralph Stuart <rstuart**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: Chemical security news story
Comments: To: SAFETY

Recently, I posted information about the new Homeland Security  
regulations for chemical security. Here is a AP wire story that  
explores some of the background of the issue...

- Ralph
Safer chemical switch not required

By BEVERLEY LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer

Tue Apr 24, 3:35 AM ET

New federal regulations for chemical facilities neither require nor  
encourage companies to switch from potentially dangerous chemicals to  
less hazardous substitutes, and that has some lawmakers and activists  

Rep. Bennie Thompson (news, bio, voting record), D-Miss., chairman of  
the House Homeland Security Committee, and three Democratic  
colleagues expressed "deep concern" Monday about the reported thefts  
and attempted thefts of chlorine gas from California water treatment  

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff they said  
the incidents underscored the need to switch to safer liquid chlorine  
or other methods for water treatment.

Chlorine gas can be fatal, and it has been used as a weapon in a  
series of chemical bomb attacks in recent months in Iraq.

The new rules released earlier this month for the first time give the  
government the authority to regulate high-risk plants to ensure they  
are secured from either accident or attack. Regulators are empowered  
to impose civil penalties up to $25,000 a day, and even to shut down  
chemical facilities that fail to comply with the rules.

Chertoff has said he doesn't want to micromanage industry from  
Washington. "We want to set down standards and requirements but we do  
not want to necessarily prescribe the exact way in which a plant is  
going to meet those standards," he said. "We want to unleash the  
ingenuity of the private sector to figure out what is the best way to  
skin this cat, just as long as the cat gets skinned."

That view was echoed by the American Chemistry Council's spokesman,  
Scott Jensen, who said industry objects to having the government the  
tell plants when and where they should convert. He added that forcing  
alternatives could be cumbersome, expensive, and lead to unintended  

Activists offer the story of the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant  
in Washington, D.C., as an example of a change to a safer alternative  
that was accomplished quickly and without excessive additional cost.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, plant manager Mike  
Marcotte could not sleep at night because of the potential hazard  
posed by several rail cars loaded with chlorine gas sitting at his  
facility. "They were extremely attractive targets," he said in an  
interview. An attack on the tanks could have released a toxic cloud  
endangering nearly 2 million people.

Marcotte decided he needed to move quickly. Having already made plans  
to replace chlorine gas with liquid bleach within the next few years,  
he rapidly accelerated those plans. Within 90 days, the conversion  
was complete.

Construction costs were about $500,000 and subsequent upgrades cost  
about $15 million. The safer liquid bleach added about 25 cents to  
the average customer's monthly bill. But it was no longer necessary  
to have police cars patrolling around the clock, so security costs  
dropped substantially.

It's not just plants that make chemicals that are potentially  
hazardous; there are also facilities that use chemicals to produce  
other products  for example, petroleum refineries may use hydrogen  
fluoride; power plants may use anhydrous ammonia, and water treatment  
plants use chlorine and sulfur dioxide gas. All are toxic if inhaled,  
and they are used in 55 percent of the industrial processes that  
threaten communities nationwide, according to the environmental group  

There are widely available safer alternatives for those gases.

The liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, in a 2006 study,  
said more than 284 facilities in 47 states have converted to safer  
alternatives since 1999. As a result, the Center said, at least 30  
million people no longer live under the threat of a major toxic gas  
cloud. Some examples:

 Nottingham Water Treatment Plant, Cleveland, Ohio, now treats  
drinking water with bleach instead of chlorine gas.

 Wyandotte Wastewater Treatment Facility, near Detroit, switched  
from chlorine gas to ultraviolet light.

 DuPont Soy Polymers, Louisville, Ky., changed from using anhydrous  
sulfur dioxide to the safer sodium bisulfite.

Since 1999, the Center says, 25 water utilities that formerly  
received shipments of chlorine gas by rail have switched to safer and  
more secure options, such as liquid bleach or ultraviolet light. But  
37 drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities still receive  
chlorine gas by rail, leaving 25 million Americans living in harm's  
way either nearby or in towns along the rail route.

Cleveland and Indianapolis both converted their water utilities from  
chlorine gas, but they are still at risk from railcars headed to  
other cities such as Minneapolis and Nashville that have not converted.


On the Net:

Homeland Security Department:

House Homeland Security Committee:

Center for American Progress: 

American Chemistry Council: 

Copyright  2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The  
information contained in the AP News report may not be published,  
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written  
authority of The Associated Press.

Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.