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Jersey City – On Tuesday, in light of recent toxic chemical spills and accidents, NJPIRG called on the EPA to take action to protect the public from the dangers of high-risk chemical plants. Activists gathered today outside the Kuehne chemical facility to release “Danger In Our Backyards: The Threat of Chemical Facilities to Millions”, a report that highlights two New Jersey plants as posing significant threats to public safety. Over 12 million people live near a high-risk New Jersey chemical plant.
“The EPA has the authority to make our communities safe from another spill,” said Jen Kim, NJPIRG State Director. “We can’t just sit around and wait for another Paulsboro spill or West, Texas explosion. It’s time for the EPA to act.”
President Barack Obama recently issued an Executive Order, directing government agencies to coordinate efforts to improve safety and security at chemical facilities nationwide. Specifically the Order calls for improved coordination among federal, state, and local agencies, and to “modernize policies, regulations and standards” at the nation’s thousands of chemical facilities.
The EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to require certain chemical facilities to use safer alternatives and safer processing in plants wherever possible. In 2009, Clorox voluntarily began to convert is facilities (bleach manufacturing) to a high strength liquid alternative to chlorine, a demonstration that this method can dramatically reduce risks.
“With the President’s direction and a confirmed EPA Administrator, moving to safer alternatives should be an easy next step,” said Matilda Thornton-Clark, NJPIRG Field Manager. “There are real solutions and safer alternatives available right now that we could already be using.”
As a global center of the chemical industry, and with the highest population density in the country, New Jersey is perhaps more at risk from a deadly chemical spill than any other state. There are five plants in New Jersey that, in the event of a spill, could threaten the safety of more than one million people, including the Paulsboro Refinery in South Jersey and the Kuehne Chemical facility in South Kearny.
Last winter, a train carrying vinyl chloride and other chemicals derailed near the town of Paulsboro, NJ, spilling 180,000 gallons of the toxic substance into the atmosphere. The accident caused no fatalities, but 71 people were sent to the hospital in addition to the evacuation of the entire town. Vinyl chloride exposure can cause dizziness, respiratory irritation, and organ damage.
“We’ve spoken with over 25,000 people about this issue across the state and the overwhelming majority of people want safer alternatives now,” said Hannah Farrell, Campaign Coordinator with NJPIRG.
NJPIRG is a member of the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters that produced this report.
NJPIRG, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, takes on powerful interests on behalf of its members, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being.
For more information visit http://www.njpirg.org or follow us @njpirg on Twitter and Facebook.
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