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P2 and the Y2K "bug"




From: Lois Epstein@EDF on 12/30/98 12:19 PM

Subject:  P2 and the Y2K "bug"

To follow-up on this topic, the Environmental Defense Fund released the
following one-page document today on "Y2K and the Environment: A Compendium
of Potential Problems and Opportunities."  The "opportunities" listed all
have P2/accident prevention components to them.  If you want an original
because of formatting problems during document transmittal, or for
non-email distribution, please email me (Lois_Epstein@edf.org) your fax
number.  We also have an accompanying press release.


     Y2K and the Environment:  A Compendium of Potential Problems and
                               Opportunities

Many operations designed to protect the environment and human health might
have Year 2000 (Y2K) date problems because of computer programming or
computer chip-related failures.   These failures could include emissions
sampling and related laboratory analyses, pollution treatment systems, leak
detection systems, safety alarms, safety relief devices, security systems
(which could lock out critical personnel), and power and water surge
detection systems.  Fortunately, many of the most dangerous industrial
processes are designed to shut-down safely if problems are detected, rather
than to behave unpredictably.  Experts expect, however, that small and
medium-sized companies are likely to have a tougher time than large
businesses in ensuring that their operations are Y2K-compliant.
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
|                                                         |  |
|         Potential Environmental/Safety Problems         |  |
|                                                         |  |
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
  >-------------------------------------------|
  |                                           |
  |          Potential Opportunities          |
  |                                           |
  >-------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
|                                                         |  |
| The accidental release of a dangerous chemical, caused  |  |
| by a power interruption and/or by multiple plant        |  |
| systems that are not "Y2K-compliant"                    |  |
|                                                         |  |
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
  >-------------------------------------------|
  |                                           |
  | Identifying and implementing solutions to |
  | Y2K problems can incorporate measures to  |
  | enhance plant safety and environmental    |
  | protection, including reducing the use of |
  | dangerous (including toxic, flammable,    |
  | and reactive) chemicals and decreasing    |
  | process pressures and temperatures        |
  |                                           |
  >-------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
|                                                         |  |
| A gas or oil pipeline accidental release due to         |  |
| pressure buildup caused by the failure of a computer to |  |
| detect and address abnormal conditions                  |  |
|                                                         |  |
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
  >-------------------------------------------|
  |                                           |
  | Instead of merely fixing date-related     |
  | software problems, many companies are     |
  | upgrading their business software to      |
  | increase efficiency in manufacturing,     |
  | distribution, and accounting              |
  |                                           |
  >-------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
|                                                         |  |
| Drinking water contamination caused by inaccurate       |  |
| laboratory results or filtration/disinfection system    |  |
| failure at a drinking water treatment plant             |  |
| _______________________________________________________ |  |
| Sewer or toilet backups or fish kills caused by a       |  |
| failure at a municipal or industrial wastewater         |  |
| treatment plant                                         |  |
|                                                         |  |
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
  >-------------------------------------------|
  |                                           |
  | Installing solar energy reduces some of   |
  | the uncertainty associated with power     |
  | interruption.  Since the nation's power   |
  | grid is integrated and composed of many   |
  | companies that may not be Y2K-compliant,  |
  | it is considered by experts to be a weak  |
  | link in prevention of industrial failures |
  |                                           |
  >-------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
|                                                         |  |
| Garbage or industrial waste build-up from a waste       |  |
| disposal site failure (e.g., an incinerator that is not |  |
| working properly)                                       |  |
| _______________________________________________________ |  |
| A safety or fire hazard from temporarily increased      |  |
| storage of flammable or reactive chemicals, either      |  |
| because of customer Y2K problems resulting in lack of   |  |
| pick-up, or indications of future supplier Y2K problems |  |
| so extra materials are ordered to prevent a shortage    |  |
|                                                         |  |
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
  >-------------------------------------------|
  |                                           |
  |                                           |
  |                                           |
  |                                           |
  | Shut-downs of potentially dangerous       |
  | operations (after ensuring that enough    |
  | employees are in place to address         |
  | unforeseen contingencies and that         |
  | start-up is unlikely to pose any          |
  | problems) might be appropriate in certain |
  | instances, and can provide an opportunity |
  | for needed maintenance or infrastructure  |
  | upgrades                                  |
  |                                           |
  >-------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
|                                                         |  |
| Excess or inadequate flow in streams or rivers          |  |
| resulting in adverse ecological impacts including fish  |  |
| kills, caused by a dam's failure to ensure appropriate  |  |
| water flow                                              |  |
|                                                         |  |
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
  >-------------------------------------------|
  |                                           |
  |                                           |
  |                                           |
  >-------------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
|                                                         |  |
| An undetected leak to groundwater from a tank,          |  |
| pipeline, landfill, or an industrial pond caused by a   |  |
| failed computerized leak detection system               |  |
|                                                         |  |
|---------------------------------------------------------+-->
  >-------------------------------------------|
  |                                           |
  |                                           |
  |                                           |
  >-------------------------------------------|



Information compiled by Lois N. Epstein, P.E., Senior Engineer,
Environmental Defense Fund, Washington, DC (December 1998).