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  • OTRI.USA
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  • OTVI.USA
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American Shipper

Group says chlorine rail hazard “indefensible”

Group says chlorine rail hazard “indefensible”

Group says chlorine rail hazard “indefensible”

Continuing transportation of chlorine gas by rail through major U.S. cities for water treatment represents an unacceptable safety danger, said a Washington-based think tank.

   “Water utilities that receive chlorine gas by rail pose an indefensible security vulnerability,” said Paul Orum, a chemical safety consultant who was commissioned by the Center for American Progress, to study the issue.

   “Fortunately, this danger is entirely preventable. But while some utilities have converted off chlorine gas railcars to safer and more secure options, others have no plans to do so. Congress and the administration should see to it that these remaining utilities are able to convert,” he said.

   The survey found that converting from chlorine gas railcars to safer, more secure alternatives is affordable even at large facilities, costing no more than $1.50 per person served each year or less.

   “A terrorist attack on a chlorine gas railcar could kill or injure thousands of people,” said Reece Rushing, director of regulatory and information policy at the Center for American Progress. “This is especially troubling because security on the railroads is basically nonexistent. We must get toxic trains off the tracks wherever possible and remove these potential targets. Converting water utilities from chlorine gas railcars would provide enormous security benefits at relatively little cost.”

   The group said: “Thousands of tons of highly toxic chlorine gas are delivered by rail to 37 U.S. drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities.” Only 24 drinking water and 13 wastewater facilities still use rail shipments of chlorine gas, the group said. They are found in California, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

   More than 25 million Americans live in danger of a potential catastrophic gas release from these facilities, while millions more live in harm’s way in cities and towns along the rail delivery routes, said the center, as it released a report entitled, “Toxic Trains and the Terrorist Threat: How Water Utilities Can Get Chlorine Gas Off the Rails and Out of American Communities.”

   The report notes that while Washington quickly converted its sewage treatment plant from chlorine gas railcars to liquid bleach in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “hazardous chemicals, including chlorine gas, are still being transported by rail through the District just a few city blocks from the U.S. Capitol.”

   It noted that since 1999, six drinking water and 19 wastewater facilities have eliminated rail shipments of chlorine gas, and that four drinking water and two wastewater plants have definite plans to convert from chlorine gas to a safer, more secure disinfectants.

   The center said new Department of Homeland Security regulations would do nothing to address the concerns it raised about chlorine transport by rail.

   “This danger to both public health and security places millions of Americans needlessly at risk. The solution is well known, readily achievable and affordable, but requires decisive action that the Bush administration and Congress have yet to muster,” the group said

   The center is headed by John D. Podesta, former chief of staff to President William J. Clinton.

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