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How exposed are our chemical facilities?

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posted on Jul, 28 2005 @ 06:42 PM
I've been working at various chemical plants for the better part of 5 years now, not very long, but long enough to know the inner workings of such facilities.

I started as a grunt packager and worked my way up (through college) to a chemical engineer. I worked as a laborer for 4 of my 5 years in the chemical industry. (Recently promoted to engineer)

Anyhow, I've traveled the United States for the past year going from plant to plant, working with Dupont, Noveon, Glidden, and several other polymer and specialty additives plants in the region.

And I must say, the security STINKS.

Take a look at this small chemical plant in Avon Lake, OH..


You'll notice this plant spans the better part of around 10-15 city blocks. It's pretty big, but very small compared to some of the facilities around our nation..

Now here's my beef. I actually got into an argument just recently with our local Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the security of such facilities. The EPA will charge chemical companys obscene amounts of money for small chemical spills. They have laws in place that require chemical companies to ensure that absolutly no amount of Chemical X gets released into the enviroment. And even if there's a freak accident, and some does spill, if the EPA finds out about it, they'll fine the company millions of dollars in fines. (not exaggerating here, huge amounts of fines).

But let me tell you a little story about the chemical facility in the above picture.. See those rail road tracks? If not, load up the picture again and take a look..

The railroad tracks run alongside the rear of the facility, and what also runs along the rear of our facility are silo's that hold some of our most potent chemicals. (Cyanide, Several oxidizer chemical silos, ect).

Now, the thing you won't find out by looking at the photos is that these silo's are literally riddled with bullet dents. Bullets!

Lucky for us, the perps don't have any high powered rifles, or the entire city of Avon Lake would be leveled. These silo's are huge, and full of chemicals that react to oxygen in a violent manner, and if one were to be punctured, the silo would literally explode and probably level a few city blocks. Along with that, it'd also level several other silo's that would react in the same manner.

My argument with the EPA was that they fine so harshly for petty spills, and do absolutly nothing to require chemical companies to protect their facilities.

Most facilities, including mine, don't even have night crew security because they can't afford it; and during the day, the security consists of ONE man guarding the main gate.

Now, would this fence stop a terrorist from certain death?

I argued with the EPA official until my face was blue regarding the use of these so called "Security Dollars" the Homeland of Security offers.. but he assured me that such an act of terrorism would never strike Avon Lake, Ohio.

It's only Avon he reminded me. It's not New York.

While President Bush continues to make terrorism and domestic security the centerpiece of his campaign, he has made little mention of one of the most urgent threats to our safety: the risk that terrorists could cause thousands, even millions, of deaths by sabotaging one of the 15,000 industrial chemical plants across the United States.

A terrorist group could cause even greater harm by entering a plant in the United States and setting off an explosion that produces a deadly gas cloud.

The administration knows the dangers. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., highlighted the issue with legislation requiring chemical plants to enhance security and use safer chemicals and technologies when feasible. (Such safer substitutes are widely available.)

A study by the Army surgeon general, conducted soon after 9/11, found that up to 2.4 million people could be killed or wounded by a terrorist attack on a single chemical plant.

Reading Material:

Homeland Security.. I laugh at thee.

[edit on 7/28/2005 by QuietSoul]

posted on Jul, 28 2005 @ 07:44 PM
Just want to make an additional post to this..

The responsibility of security shouldn't rest just at the doorsteps of the government. I brought this subject up several times in the upper management meetings we hold at our facility and they all have the same perception.. "It's only Avon."..

Then they went right into about how much it would cost to put up CCTV systems and/or hire personel to monitor security..

I argued that such spending would pay for itself if it curbed a deadly attack/accident..

But it's only Avon...

More than 100 facilities nationwide that store large amounts of lethal chemicals are located near communities of at least 1 million people, congressional researchers say.

Officials are concerned that the plants, located in 23 states, are tempting targets for terror attacks.

The report estimates at least 106 and as many as 111 plants are located near population centers of 1 million people or more. Up to 29 of the plants were located in Texas -- more than twice as many than in any other state. California had 11 to 13; Illinois 12 or 13; Ohio eight, Florida and New Jersey seven each.

According to the U.S. EPA, 123 chemical facilities in the United States each threaten a million or more nearby residents. More than 700 plants could put at least 100,000 people at risk, and more than 3,000 facilities have at least 10,000 people nearby.

Yet there is no federal counterterrorism security standard for chemical plants or refineries. And there is no way to assure citizens that chemical and oil companies are taking adequate precautions. Instead, the EPA is counting on the industry to take the necessary precautions voluntarily, no matter the cost.

"Certainly, the industry has a very powerful incentive to do the right thing," said Bob Bostock, assistant EPA administrator for homeland security. "It ought to be their worst nightmare that their facility would be target of a terrorist act because they did not meet their responsibility to the community."

Still not convinced?

A suburban California chemical plant routinely loads chlorine into 90-ton railroad cars that, if ruptured, could poison more than 4 million people in Orange and Los Angeles counties, depending on wind speed, direction and the ambient temperature.

• A Philadelphia refinery keeps 400,000 pounds of hydrogen fluoride that could asphyxiate nearly 4 million nearby residents.

• A South Kearny, N.J., chemical company's 180,000 pounds of chlorine or sulfur dioxide could form a cloud that could threaten 12 million people.

• The West Virginia sister plant of the infamous Union Carbide Corp. factory in Bhopal, India, keeps up to 200,000 pounds of methyl isocyanate that could emit a toxic fog over 60,000 people near Charleston.

• The Atofina Chemicals Inc. plant outside Detroit projects that a rupture of one of its 90-ton rail cars of chlorine could endanger 3 million people.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard, a large leak of chlorine gas can travel two miles in only 10 minutes and remain acutely toxic to a distance of about 20 miles.

Evidence of al Qaeda's interest in chemical attacks is well known -- copies of U.S. chemical trade publications were found in an Osama bin Laden hideout last week.

But al Qaeda terrorists are not alone in considering attacks on chemical plants and refineries. Such plots have involved anti-government militia members in the United States and Chechen rebels in Russia.

[edit on 7/28/2005 by QuietSoul]

[edit on 7/28/2005 by QuietSoul]

posted on Jul, 29 2005 @ 12:55 AM
Hopefully if any Terrorists are reading this... "it's only Avon"
Just keep walking.

But i see your point, the whole 'security' thing is played up as the invisable shield that protects us all from Terrorism, yet it's really more of a PR campaign which focuses on 'improving' the perception of security in pubic areas which recieve a lot of attention, such as airports, train stations, etc etc.

If it's not an area in which a lot of people flow through, they are not as interested in promoting security. What's the point of CCTV cameras on a bio or chem facility when those same cameras could be recording thousands of faces every hour of the day in a NY subway?

It's a system which wants us to believe we are protected but at the same time, if there's not a fuss made about a certain place or it's not a prominant area for crowd control, it can be left blatently open as these plants show and as the border issue shows.

Sometimes it seems like they are encouraging an attack so they don't have to plan it themselves yet at the end of the day the result will be the same, they'll spend a lot of money to tell us they are protecting us when in reality most of the protection is more about controlling the population.

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