Dow facility fails Greenpeace citizen inspections

Feature story - September 8, 2010
Following a citizen inspection conducted by air and land, Greenpeace issued a ‘failed inspection’ report to Dow Chemical Company for failing to fully secure its Texas Operations facility in Freeport, TX against terrorists or catastrophic accidents. The Freeport facility puts 130,000 people at risk.

The Dow inspection report follows on the heels of two DuPont chemical facilities in Delaware and New Jersey that failed similar citizen safety inspections as the plants continue to pose a catastrophic risk to 2 million people.

Dow chemical facilityChemical Security NOW

Greenpeace is conducting citizen inspections to highlight the need for strong, permanent chemical security legislation, before it’s too late. The Dow facility is the third to fail Greenpeace inspections. But, on the positive side, Greenpeace also issued ‘passed’ inspection reports to the Wilmington Water Pollution Control facility and the Southeast Water Pollution Control Plant in Philadelphia; both facilities have eliminated risks by switching to safer chemical processes.

Dangers at Dow

According to Dow’s own reports to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program, their Texas Operations in Freeport, TX puts over 130,000 people at risk due to the bulk use and storage of phosgene gas, a compound used as a chemical weapon in World War I.

The facility also stores up to 7.6 million pounds of chlorine gas on site that endangers a similar population in the case of a catastrophic release. It’s clear that this Dow facility has failed to take advantage of safer available chemical processes that would prevent a catastrophic release of phosgene or chlorine gas resulting from a terrorist attack or accidental release.

Risks are preventable

Since there is no amount of fences, security cameras, or guards that can fully secure a facility that has an inherent risk of a catastrophic release of a lethal gas—the only course of action is switching to safer alternatives.

More than 287 chemical plants have switched to safer chemicals or processes over the last ten years. This common sense action has reduced catastrophic risks to 38 million Americans. That's the good news. The bad news is that most of the highest risk plants have NOT adopted safer processes—and they won't until laws are passed that require them to do so.

In 2008, Dow switched to using safer processes to manufacture chlorine on site at its Pittsburgh, CA plant. In 2009, Dow provided Greenpeace legislative language showing that Dow could support a policy requiring safer chemical processes.

It’s obvious that Dow can switch to safer alternatives at all of their facilities, but will they?

Lobbying against safety

Unfortunately, Dow is leading the industry trade groups lobbying against policies that would require safer chemical processes at plants and protect nearby communities. Since the 9/11 attacks, chemical industry lobbyists, including Dow, DuPont, BP and Exxon have blocked strong legislation. Greenpeace identified 169 lobbyists registered to keep Congress from enacting a strong chemical security law.

But last November, the House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 2868) that would reduce these risks. It's now time for the U.S. Senate to do the same. Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) has introduced the "Secure Chemical Facilities Act N(S. 3599) and Secure Water Facilities Act (S. 3598) " in the Senate. This comprehensive package of legislation compliments the House-passed bill.

Prevent a toxic nightmare in your community

Did you know that the Department of Homeland Security has identified over 4,997 "high-risk" chemical plants in the United States?  They plan to inspect fewer than five percent of them by the end of 2010.  Just 300 of plants together put 110 million Americans at risk.

You or someone you love could be in the vulnerability zone. Please help us get the word out! Urge your Senators to prevent a toxic nightmare in your community by co-sponsoring and voting for the "Secure Chemical and Water Facilities Act." Safer technologies exist, let’s help make them a reality!

Dow facility fails Greenpeace citizen inspections