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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
3/17/03
03/31

 

Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

DEP Commissioner Campbell and Senator Corzine Urge Prevention of Chemical Accidents For Community Safety

(03/31) Trenton — Trenton-Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today joined with U.S. Senator Jon S. Corzine and environmental safety and community leaders to support a proposed expansion of New Jersey's Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) program to provide greater protection for residents living near industrial facilities.

DEP has proposed to list certain reactive chemicals as extraordinarily hazardous substances subject to risk management planning requirements of TCPA. These chemicals can explode with the simple, inadvertant exposure to air or water or if inappropriately mixed with certain other chemicals and can result in death or permanent disability to people beyond a facility's property boundary.

"Our residents need greater protection from the threat of hazardous chemical reactions in the industrial process," said DEP Commissioner Campbell. "Improving prevention plans to address the risks of reactives and to incorporate safer technology is good for business as well as for public safety."

More than 60 companies using reactive chemicals that could cause industrial accidents and explosions will now be covered by the proposed changes to the TCPA program. The proposed amendments would require additional prevention measures for 30 new reactive hazardous substances and 43 chemical groups, depending upon a company's volume and use of the chemicals.

The amendments to the TCPA rules also reinstate a requirement, which the state dropped in 1998, mandating that all facilities regulated under the program evaluate every five years state of the art technologies to reduce the risk of an accident and implement this technology if cost effective.

"New Jersey is setting the example for the nation in requiring new environmental safeguards to protect communities located around industrial plants," said Senator Corzine. "This measure will be used as a model for other states to follow as we work to protect our residents who live and work near facilities that use hazardous chemicals."

"Senators Corzine and Lautenberg are Congressional leaders on efforts to improve security and implement safer technologies at companies using hazardous materials," said Commissioner Campbell. "DEP is grateful for their support of New Jersey's efforts to become the first state in the nation to require companies using reactive chemicals to develop better safety practices."

"When corporations fail to accept their responsibility to protect citizens for the toxic chemicals that they use and produce, the government must step in and force them to do so," said Senator Frank Lautenberg.

New Jersey is the first state in the nation to propose requiring companies handling reactive chemicals to prepare accidental release prevention plans and examine safer technologies to prevent industrial incidents like the tragic ones that occurred at Napp Technologies in Lodi in 1995 and at Morton International in Paterson in 1998. The Napp and Morton International accidents were the result of reactive chemistry interactions. The infamous explosion at the Napp facility was caused when a reactive was inadvertently exposed to water, resulting in five deaths, 40 residents hospitalized, hundreds of residents evacuated and the mobilization of 900 emergency responders from 30 towns. The Morton explosion was the result of a reactive chemical being mixed too quickly with another chemical.

The federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which is the agency responsible for investigating chemical accidents, recently made recommendations to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration concerning reactive hazards and the need for additional regulation of reactive chemicals. In 2001, the Bush Administration withdrew a plan to regulate reactive chemicals.

Currently, 105 companies are covered by the TCPA program and must implement risk management programs. These companies represent industries such as water treatment plants, chemical manufacturers, food manufacturers and processors, pharmaceutical companies, refineries, and warehouses. DEP also has proposed to list liquefied petroleum gas and its constituents as flammable extraordinarily hazardous substances. The amendments do not extend to propane retailers and users.

Approximately 40 additional companies are expected to become subject to the TCPA rules as a result of the proposed amendments because they use certain reactive chemicals or liquefied petroleum gas. Twenty-two companies currently regulated under TCPA are expected to have to comply with additional regulatory requirements for using the substances. These estimates include approximately nine facilities that likely will be regulated for liquefied petroleum gas, of which several already are in the TCPA program.

 

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