Chemical Plant Hazards in Your Community

Feature story - August 18, 2009
Local Greenpeace activists descended on 16 states across America to call attention to the risk chemical plants pose in our communities. A new analysis of government data reveals that 1,702 schools and 94 hospitals are located within a five-mile radius of 18 chemical plants that together put 27 million at risk in these states.

Greenpeace activists prepared statements and activities to show that the danger is real for all of us living within the vulnerability zone of these chemical plants.

U.S. chemical plants remain one of the sectors of America's infrastructure that is most vulnerable to terrorist attacks. More than 100 million Americans are put at risk by just 300 of the nation's "high risk" chemical plants.

Prevention is Key

But, these hazards are preventable. Nationwide, 287 plants have switched to safer and more secure chemicals or processes since 1999 that no longer put 38.5 million Americans at risk.

That's the good news. The bad news is that not all plants have adopted safer technologies - and they won't until laws are passed that require them to.

Safer alternatives don't cost the plant much and may even save them money, will create jobs, and are a longer-term investment in communities.

The Risks are Real

Chemical plants that store and use large quantities of poison gases in populated areas pose particularly significant risks to the public and first responders. A catastrophic release of a gas like chlorine 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 chemicals or processes for lethal gases stored on-site can protect millions of people from harm.

Legislation Would Save Lives

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.

It's now up to the new Congress to protect the millions of Americans still at risk once and for all. A new package of legislation (H.R. 2868 and HR 3258) is aimed to keep us safe and reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack.

Find out how many hazardous chemical plants are in your state.

Take Action

Tell your member of Congress to protect you and your family!