WILMINGTON, DE – A new analysis of government data reveals that 88 schools and hospitals are located within a five mile radius (see attached map) of just one local “high risk” chemical plant in Wilmington. DuPont Edgemoor White Pigment Plant is a 115-acre manufacturing facility located just east of downtown Wilmington. The entire risk zone around this plant extends more than 10 miles putting 159,000 area people at risk of sudden injury or death in the event of an accident or terrorist attack. Furthermore, in Delaware there are seven plants that each pose a disaster risk to 10,000 or more local residents. The good news, however, is that that these risks are unnecessary. At least 287 chemical facilities nation-wide have eliminated these risks to 38.5 million Americans since 1999 by converting to safer chemicals, one is located in Delaware
The analysis combined chemical facility reports filed with the Environmental Protection Agency with data from the Environmental Systems Research Institute, the US Geological Survey and reports by the Congressional Research Service and the Center for American Progress.
The Department of Homeland Security has identified 6,300 “high risk” chemical facilities in the U.S. Congress is now considering legislation that could reduce or eliminate these risks in the event of a terrorist attack or accident. “Given the magnitude of these risks to local residents of Wilmington, it’s time for Congress, including Senator Delaware Senator Thomas Carper, to support legislation that truly protects communities living in the shadow of high-risk chemical plants,” said Greenpeace organizer Tracy Wax. “No one believes that determined terrorists will be stopped by fence-line security. The only way to eliminate the consequences of an attack is to convert plants to safer chemicals or processes. Risk prevention is the most common sense solution.”
Chemical plants that store and use large quantities of poison gases in populated areas pose particularly significant risks to the public and first responders. More than 100 million Americans live in “vulnerability zones” surrounding just 300 chemical plants. A catastrophic release of a gas like chlorine, which is used at the Edgemoor facility, would form a toxic cloud that would be hazardous for up to 20 miles downwind. According to a U.S. Naval Research Lab report, an attack at just one of these plants could put 100,000 people at risk of death or injury within the first 30 minutes of the incident.
Simple, cost-effective and common sense changes, like substituting safer chemical or processes for lethal gases stored on-site can protect millions of people from harm. In September the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to take up a package of legislation (H.R. 2868 and HR 3258) by Representatives Waxman (D-CA) and Markey (D-MA) that will reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack.
A recent Greenpeace report identified 169 chemical industry lobbyists who killed this same legislation in 2008. ”We cannot allow chemical industry lobbyists to dictate the terms of this debate,” said President Obama when he served in the Senate. Rick Hind, Legislative Director at Greenpeace, declared “It’s now up to the new Congress to protect the millions of Americans still at risk once and for all.”