Fluoride Action Network

PennPirg urges EPA to make chemical companies switch to safer processes

Source: South Jersey Times | August 9th, 2013 | By Rebecca Forand
Industry type: Oil Refineries

PHILADELPHIA — Environmental activists gathered in front of the Philadelphia region’s Environmental Protection Agency offices on Thursday to call for stricter safety and security to protect the public from possible chemical spills and accidents in the area.

The rally was to release “Danger in Our Backyards: The Threat of Chemical Facilities to Millions,” a report highlighting 12 chemical facilities — including Greenwich Township’s Paulsboro Refining Company and Philadelphia’s Trainer Refinery — and the effects that could occur if an accident or chemical spill happened there.

PennPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) — a consumer health and safety advocacy group — pointed out that both the Paulsboro Refining Company and the Trainer Refinery routinely use hydrofluoric acid to refine crude oil into gasoline and that an incident involving hydrofluoric acid can affect a 19-mile radius.

A 19-mile radius from each facility includes large portions of Gloucester and Salem counties.

“At a time when we’re seeing more chemical accidents than ever, the EPA should use its authority to require that the most dangerous chemical facilities switch to safer alternatives and modernize their policies to protect the public,” said Caroline Sorensen, the Campaign Coordinator with PennPIRG. “Every day millions of people are at risk from exposure to toxic chemicals.”

With a train derailment causing a spill of the toxic chemical vinyl chloride occurring in Paulsboro last November, PennPIRG argues that safer alternatives should be implemented, especially in the Philadelphia area where there are 11 chemical plants and some of the busiest highways and railroad lines in the country.

“The EPA has the authority to make our communities safe from another spill,” Sorensen said. “We can’t just sit around and wait for another Paulsboro spill or West Texas explosion. It’s time for the EPA to act.”

However, according to those in the chemical manufacturing industry, extreme safety regulations are in place and followed precisely, especially in New Jersey.

“New Jersey is a unique situation because not only are plants complying with the federal level regulations, they are also required to comply with the state level,” said Elvin Montero, the director of communications for the Chemistry Council of New Jersey. “This information is not new. It’s something our industry is required to do and we take the necessary precautions to ensure all safety.”