Waxahachie Could Happen Anywhere: Tell Your Senators to Vote for Chemical Disaster Prevention
On October 3rd, 2011, a massive fire broke out at a chemical plant in Waxahachie, Texas, forcing the evactuation of a nearby elementary school and college. While the scope of the disaster is currently unknown, it's quite possible that there are ultrahazardous chemicals on site that put the community at risk.
It doesn't have to be this way. Comphrensive chemical security legislation has already passed the House of Representatives and has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Launtenberg. This bill would protect millions of Americans from unforeseen disasters like the one in Waxahachie, Texas.
The bulk use and storage of chlorine and other poison gases at large waste water and drinking water plants alone puts millions of Americans at risk of a Bhopal magnitude chemical disaster. Approximately 70 of these plants each put 100,000 people at risk, some of them each put a million or more people at risk. But some communities no longer face these risks because they switched to safer chemical processes. For example, Washington, DC converted their waste water treatment plant 90 days after the 9/11 attacks. Before 9/11 their use of chlorine gas put 1.7 million people at risk.
Both the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency is asking for this authority. The U.S. House of Representatives passed similar legislation on November 6, 2009. If enacted this legislation could eliminate catastrophic risks at the highest risk chemical plants and it would also create jobs.
I urge you to vote for the Secure Chemical Facilities Act and Secure Water Facilities Act (S.711). If enacted this legislation will prevent chemical disasters at our nation's water treatment plants. An attack or accident at one of these plants could kill thousands of people.
Despite the warnings, little has been done to prevent such a disaster at the highest risk plants. According to the EPA, approximately 70 waste water and drinking water plants each put 100,000 Americans at risk.
Please enact a law that ensures the use of safer, cost-effective chemical processes that eliminate these risks whether by accidents or terrorist attacks. Prevention is the only solution. As we have seen with disasters, such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, once "fail safe" gadgets fail, it's too late to prevent a catastrophe.
The current temporary security law actually exempts all publicly owned water treatment plants and bars safer chemical processes from being required. Instead, they depend on conventional security -- guards, gates, and fences. Conventional security will do nothing to reduce the staggering loss of life and injuries from a successful terrorist attack or accident.
The U.S. Senate needs to take action to protect communities put at risk by water treatment plants.
Thank you, I look forward to receiving your reply.
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