Safer processes could save lives

by Rick Hind

May 26, 2010

With the memory of BP’s failed "fail safe" shut-off valve fresh in our minds, one can only begin to imagine the nightmare that millions of pounds of chlorine gas could bring to the Delaware valley thanks to DuPont. The inspection report we gave to DuPont on May 21st was the culmination of weeks of work. For example, we photographed 90-ton rail cars parked outside their fence line. Just one of these rail cars can put millions of people at risk of sudden death or serious injury 20 miles down wind. From our airship we saw many rail cars of chlorine gas inside their plants.

As former DuPont CEO Charles Holliday told the media in 2007, there’s little anyone can do to prevent a plane from flying into one of their plants. But what DuPont can do is switch to safer processes. Even Dow Chemical is doing that at one of their plants. They partnered with K2Pure Solutions and will eliminate the storage and transport of 90-ton rail cars of chlorine gas by switching to a small batch process. Clorox is also doing the same company-wide. And the railroads, which bring the chlorine to DuPont, no longer want to haul these cargoes. The Association of American Railroads says if these plants won’t convert, Congress should make them.

Inside the Edge Moor, DE DuPont plant we met DuPont spokesman Rick Straitman. He didn’t dispute the inherent danger of their chlorine gas and assured us that they were looking for safer alternatives. But he wouldn’t comment on why DuPont is lobbying Congress to kill legislation that would prevent chemical disasters.

Together 300 U.S. chemical plants put 110 million Americans at risk. Yet 40 million Americans no longer face these risks thanks to the conversion of 500 plants to safer chemical processes. But at the current rate of conversions it will take over 40 years for the highest risk plants to convert. The Senate needs to adopt legislation (H.R. 2868) passed by the House last year. They need to make sure that the highest risk plants use safer alternatives where ever possible. Let your Senator know today.

Rick Hind

By Rick Hind

Rick is the legislative director at Greenpeace USA. Since he joined the organization in 1991, he is a go-to source for journalists covering toxics and chemical security issues. He has been quoted in a wide range of national publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, NPR, FOX, and many more.

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