Are Stronger Tanks Really Enough To Prevent Chemical Catastrophes?

"On January 9, 2014 a leak was reported at Freedom Industries’ storage tanks on the banks of the Elk River just upstream of a water treatment plant that services tap water for about 300,000 residents in and around Charleston, West Virginia. The resulting release of at least 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals used to clean coal contaminated the community’s water supply, making it unfit for use. More than a month later, it remains unclear if this water is truly safe to drink and what the health consequences of exposure to these chemicals may be."

"But this is far from the only disastrous toxic chemical leak that has occurred since the beginning of this year. In addition to two well-publicized leaks of coal slurry into West Virginia rivers this month and the massive Duke Energy coal slurry spill into the Dan River in North Carolina, there have been more than a half dozen releases of hazardous materials in February 2014 alone. In less than three weeks there have been leaks of hazardous materials in California, Connecticut, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas, some of which resulted in explosions and fires and injuries requiring hospitalization.

Lawsuits have been filed against Freedom Industries, and a US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigation of the incident is underway. West Virginia legislators have introduced a bill (SB 373) to strengthen oversight and safety of above-ground chemical storage tanks – a measure that has, so far, received the support of more than 100 West Virginia business owners. At the federal level, the “Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act of 2014,” has been introduced in the US Senate (S. 1961) by Senators Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who also chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It would address emergency response as well as storage-tank integrity."

Elizabeth Grossman reports for The Pump Handle February 25, 2014.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014