Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reader Comment – 02-24-09

Anonymous left a comment about my blog on a proposal for IST legislation. His comments, in their entirety are shown below:

“The trouble with putting IST security reviews on a slower timeline than conventional security assessments is that you have to know what you need to protect before you can decide how to protect it. Why spend $ millions on permanent security measures that are soon made obsolete through implementation of IST? IST reviews should take place first as a matter of efficiency.”

 This is certainly a common argument for doing the IST review first. Unfortunately, it assumes three things: first that the IST review will result in a process/chemical change, second that there are no threats against the facility in the meantime and finally that developing the site security plan is costly. There are inherent problems with all three assumptions.

Cost of Site Security Plans 

We’ll start with the last assumption, the high cost of site security plans. The development of a site security plan is separate from the implementation of that plan. When DHS roles-out their site security plan and gives a facility 90 days to complete that plan, they are not going to be requiring that all of the security measures are complete and in place. They fully expect that a number of the measures outlined in the plan will take time and money to implement.

What they will be looking for is a plan forward on these expensive, and time consuming capital projects. Secondly, the cost of implementing the security plan is an integral part of the IST evaluation. An IST implementation plan that costs $2 M may seem unreasonable and an unjustifiable business expense. If that implementation obviates the need for a $3 M security plan, the plan becomes a lot more plausible.

Now Anonymous is certainly correct that it makes no economic sense for a facility to put into place a high-cost capital project to protect a chlorine storage tank that might be replaced by an IST project. The legislation could easily take this into account by allowing facilities to identify and defer implementation of security measures that are dedicated to the protection of the PIH assets at the facility while they continue to work on the other layers of protection required under CFATS.

IST Implementation is Not Inevitable 

Just because there appears at first glance to be a process or chemical that can be readily substituted for a PIH COI does not mean that it is economically feasible to make the substitution. In fact there may be engineering reasons that would make the substitution impracticable. Many advocacy groups in their pro-IST arguments point to the use of chlorine gas in water treatment and waste water treatment as the most obvious case where a less hazardous chemical or process could be substituted for an admittedly dangerous PIH chemical.

In his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, Brad Coffey, Water Treatment Manager, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, provides an excellent description of the process that organization went through to do their IST analysis for ridding their multiple facilities of chlorine gas. As a result of their analysis many of their facilities did switch, but it was not practical to do so for their largest water treatment facility.

 Interestingly, Mr Coffey noted that immediately after 9/11 they recognized that the security situation had significantly changed and they implemented security arrangements to protect their PIH targets. They even went to the extent of employing armed guards to protect their rail cars of chlorine gas.

Facility Protection During Implementation 

Even when an IST review determines that a project is feasible and practical there is going to be a long period of time before it can be implemented. The Central Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility in Utah is a case in point. In a November, 2008 newspaper report the facility manager, Reed Fisher, noted that his facility had just completed a design for a UV system to replace their chlorine gas system. He expected to put the system out for bid this last January and have it in running in 2010.

Assuming that it took six months to determine that the process was now doable and design the system (a conservative estimate if I ever made one) it would still be two years from the start to finish on this project. And the whole time there would be railcars of chlorine gas or chlorine gas storage tanks sitting there as a target. At high-risk facilities other than water treatment facilities, the time to implement an IST project could be even longer.

Because of quality issues and customer requirements the time frame could be extended by years. In the specialty chemical business where I used to work it often took as long as a year to get approvals to substitute the same chemical from a cheaper supplier. It could take years to develop the new manufacturing processes, complete the requisite testing and gain customer approval for substituting a safer chemical.

 Again, the whole time that the IST review and implementation process is running the facility is a high-risk chemical facility. Facilities with multiple COI, including one or more PIH COI, are likely to remain on the high-risk facility list after their IST project is approved and implemented. As high-risk facilities, they still need to be protected.

Run IST Review and SVA/SSP in Parallel

 To properly protect the surrounding community, and that is what we are really talking about here, the SVA and SSP process needs to be completed while the IST review is taking place. The legislation should require that an IST review start when the facility with a PIH COI is give the preliminary designation of a Tier 1/2 high-risk facility. By the time the SSP submission is required the facility should have a preliminary idea of whether the IST has a chance of being implanted.

 The SSP tool should include a series of questions about the status of the IST project. If there is a substantial probability that the IST will go forward, then DHS should allow a deferment of some of the most expensive security measures pending final determination on the IST question. If there is a low probability or a long lead time for implementing the IST, all security measures should be required to be implemented.

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