Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chemical Monitors

There is an interesting piece at about a parish government (I’m not sure what a ‘police jury’ is, but that is Louisiana) that is selling off some property to partially fund a set of chemical monitors around a UP rail yard in Livonia. According to the article:
“Juror Kurt Jarreau said the parish had been battling the railroad company for years about quickly alerting emergency personnel when spills occur during derailment or other accidents, which he said happen often.”
While I am glad to see that a local government is being proactive in taking steps to protect its citizens against potential toxic chemical leaks, I certainly don’t think that it should be their responsibility to take this particular action. For high-risk chemical facilities housing release toxic COI I have long advocated that such detection networks should be a necessary part of their security mitigation plan. Additionally, EPA should have required such systems as part of the emergency response requirements under a variety of community right-to-know rules. Of course, the CFATS rules explicitly exempted rail facilities from being considered as high-risk chemical facilities, noting that those facilities would be more appropriately regulated under TSA rules. Of course, TSA has done little to affect chemical security at rail (or any other type of transportation) facilities. They have regulated tracking and transfer activities for TIH rail shipments, but have not addressed any actual security activities except at shipper and receiver facilities that would presumably already be regulated under CFATS or MTSA regulations. Even at these shipper and receiver locations TSA has simply required the establishment of ‘rail secure areas’ for the storage of TIH railcars without specifying what that means. Presumably they would be expected to provide some physical security for TIH railcars stored on site, but there are no requirements for any kind of emergency response planning. And besides which, those ‘rail secure areas’ are not required when those same cars are stored 'temporarily' at rail yards. So, a small community in Louisiana is responsible for detecting a chemical leak on private property in order to protect their citizens from the toxic affects of such a leak. The railroad that owns the property apparently has no responsibility for notifying that community, no responsibility for planning for what must happen in the event of such a leak. That doesn’t seem right.

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