News reports Friday from Fort Wayne, IN indicated that a number of workers at a scrap metal recycling company were injured when two one-ton chlorine cylinders on the property leaked when the containers were breached. Apparently the containers had been transported to the company for recycling without having been emptied and cleaned. As of Saturday morning no one knew where the cylinders came from or how much chlorine was left in them when they arrived. The only thing that is certain is that about 20 people were taken to area hospitals for evaluation/treatment and four were kept for treatment and were still in the hospital Sunday.
The ongoing investigation will be able to tell authorities where the cylinders came from as they are serial numbered; some interesting explanations should follow. There are any number of legitimate reasons that an empty (and cleaned) chlorine cylinder could find its way to a scrap metal yard; the most likely was that it had reached the end of its service life. What is beyond explanation is how a not empty cylinder of an inhalation hazard chemical could find its way to such a facility.
There are security implications to this incident. The facility that let the now quite empty containers leave their facility appears to have a number of potential problems associated with this incident, but let us examine just one possibility; an insider terrorist related incident.
Suppose there was a disgruntled employee at the facility; one that had a grudge against management for offenses real or imagined. One potential way to get back at the company would be to mark chlorine cylinders at the end of their service life as “clean and empty”. With inadequate controls in place, a company might consider that marking as allowing for the shipment of those containers to a scrap metal yard without any further checks.
Would this be considered a terrorist attack? It does employ a poison gas to injure people not a party to the conflict, but that might not justify the use of the term “terrorist attack”. If the grudge were politically based, it becomes easier to assign that terminology. If the person with the grudge had been manipulated by someone with ties to a terrorist organization, it would certainly be a terrorist attack.
This is one of the reasons that the CFATS regulations require facilities to look at insider and insider assisted attacks when conducting their Security Vulnerability Assessments and developing their Site Security Plans. In this unknown facility’s case they should, now at least, look at what it would take for an individual in the organization to deliberately ship chlorine containing cylinders to improper destinations. They could then take adequate measures to ensure that this type thing could not happen in the future.
I am certain that a week ago, most chlorine filling or production organizations would not have included this eventuality in their security planning; most people would not want to think that one of their own employees could contemplate doing such a thing. Today we know that, either thru planning or incompetence, it is possible to ship a chlorine containing cylinder to some one that should not come into possession of such dangerous material. From this point forward all such organizations would be criminally negligent if they did not attempt to take precautions against this happening at their facility.