Recent news stories have underlined lax preparation and preventive efforts for chemical accidents like the August 2008 incident at Bayer's Institute, WV, plant. That one came within a few yards of replicating the Bhopal disaster.
EPA's inspector general has reported that not all companies are filing required Risk Management Plans (RMPs) and that EPA has not been policing them adequately.
Reporters who want to probe conditions at their local chemical facilities can use a software tool from EPA to project the "worst-case scenarios" that federal law and EPA make hard to access.
RMP*Comp is a software tool that can be downloaded for free from EPA's Web site. It runs on PCs or Macs. Starting with amounts of stored chemicals and nearby populations – plus a lot of other assumptions – it calculates how much injury a spill could cause. It's available here.
You can use data from other EPA databases, such as the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), to estimate quantities of chemicals stored at your local sites.