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RE: NPR Series on Homeland Security at Chemical Plants

Excellent story this morning on NPR.  Thank you for sending the note to
P2Tech, Tom.  

The plant is Blue Plains, which has a long history in the region.  The
Washington Post has an article on the chlorine pollution prevention
initiative over a year ago, which I have included here.  




Fearing Attack, Blue Plains Ceases Toxic Chemical Use

By Carol D. Leonnig and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 10, 2001; Page A01

As flames rose from the Pentagon and another plane neared Washington,
managers of the region's largest sewage treatment plant had a chilling
realization: Their facility across the Potomac River housed 10 rail cars of
toxic chemicals, and the rupture of even one would kill thousands within

Officials at the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant in Southwest
Washington doubled in-house security within hours of the terrorist attack
Sept. 11 and added round-the-clock police and U.S. Coast Guard patrols along
the river. The next morning, engineers asked: How can we get rid of the
stock tomorrow?

Over the past eight weeks, authorities have quietly removed up to 900 tons
of liquid chlorine and sulfur dioxide, moving tanker cars at night under
guard as they race to secure one of the Washington region's biggest toxic
chemical stockpiles. The plant, four miles from the U.S. Capitol, has
accelerated a $20 million, three-year construction program and in the next
two weeks plans to convert to a safer disinfectant delivered through
temporary pipes and filters.

"We had our own little Manhattan Project over here," Jerry N. Johnson,
general manager of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, which runs the plant,
said this week. "We decided it was unacceptable to keep this material here
any longer."

The overhaul is not unique to Washington. Major utilities nationwide are
adopting similar security measures, rethinking a low-key service that
touches nearly every U.S. home and business and one that almost universally
relies on cheap, powerful chemicals to treat raw sewage. The security of
those stockpiles -- which rank among the biggest chemical sites in many
communities -- has become an expensive concern.

"Until about a month ago, wastewater treatment plants . . . received little
attention as security threats were assessed," Patrick T. Karney, spokesman
for the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies and director of
Cincinnati's sewer authority, told members of Congress in October. Now, he
said, they are "possible targets for terrorist activities."

The emergency changes are driven by fear of an attack against the stockpile.
Chlorine and sulfur dioxide are so volatile that the rupture of a full
90-ton tanker could spread a lethal cloud, which could kill people within 10
miles, Johnson said. At Blue Plains, depending on the direction of the wind,
such a swath could cover downtown Washington, Anacostia, Reagan National
Airport and Alexandria.

Roughly half of U.S. utilities are abandoning the use of liquid chlorine --
a cleanser that is so deadly that Germany used it as a chemical weapon in
World War I -- with increased security costs a driving factor, said Bruce
Long, vice president at Black & Veatch, an engineering firm based in Kansas
City, Mo. Big city utilities have asked Congress for $155 million to assess
new vulnerabilities, and next week, Senate Democrats will propose spending
$2.1 billion for security at water and wastewater plants as part of a
broader economic stimulus package.

Federal investigators have warned that terrorist networks may be targeting
hazardous materials in trucks or in stockpiles. A southwest Tennessee pilot
reported that Mohamed Atta, suspected of being the ringleader of the Sept.
11 hijackings, asked about a chemical plant and water reservoir that he flew
over this year in a light airplane.

The District's plant operators said they have been convinced that the
previously dismissed risk of a catastrophic chemical release had become a
pressing concern.

"If we weren't in the middle of a targeted city, the nation's capital, we
might not have taken these extraordinary measures," said Johnson, who
discussed the changes only as they neared completion.

James E. Ivey, president of the plant workers' union, said, "You understand
that if they had hit those tankers, we'd be talking about more than 6,000
people killed in this area."

Utility officials have long known, and watchdog groups have warned, that a
worst-case chlorine release at Blue Plains could harm residents up to 15
miles away, a radius in which 2.7 million people live. Chlorine, an amber
liquid used to purify wastewater before it is neutralized by sulfur dioxide
and discharged, quickly turns into a gas if released into the atmosphere and
can expand as much as 460 times, forming a lethal cloud that is heavier than

Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, plant operators, consultants and
emergency response officials began draining or moving supplies and
discussing dispersing cars to more secure sites, such as Bolling Air Force
Base. Managers will not say where the chemicals have been moved to.

Blue Plains officials asked if federal regulators would permit them to stop
disinfecting the region's 370 million gallons a day of raw sewage so they
could remove chemical supplies.

Senior Environmental Protection Agency officials seriously considered the
request but ultimately discouraged the authority, which serves the District
and parts of Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The
EPA said that a waiver could take months and lead to public outcry.

"Security interests are our foremost concern," said Jon Capacasa, Region III
deputy director, "but it would not be a simple matter."

Instead EPA officials proposed "hardening" storage facilities by adding
concrete barricades, garages or buried tanks, steps that authority engineers
decided were unworkable or would take too long.

By late September, managers could wait no more. Since 1991, military
neighbors and public interest groups had pushed the District authority to
switch from liquid chlorine to the safer sodium hypochlorite bleach, which
does not vaporize into a poisonous cloud. After years of planning, the plant
was in the middle of a permanent chlorine conversion project, which remains
on schedule to be done by December 2002.

The authority halted that project and scoured the country for equipment to
rig the plant for a speedier, temporary solution. In one instance, engineers
grabbed custom-fit tanks that a utility in Winchester, Va., had rejected
because of cosmetic imperfections.

"Luckily, ugly didn't bother us," Johnson said.

The new chlorine bleach works as well as liquid chlorine, although more of
it is needed to disinfect the same amount of sewage. The authority's
chemical budget will increase from $750,000 to $1.25 million. Sodium
hypochlorite also cannot control odors as did the liquid chlorine, which
plant operators stopped using for that purpose Oct. 22 to reduce storage

A spokesman said that the cost of the temporary changes -- nearly $1 million
-- will be absorbed in this year's budget, although the system had
previously planned a price increase next year to pay for wider capital

Security dominated talk at a utilities conference in San Francisco last
month, said Diane VanDe Hei, executive director of the American Municipal
Water Association.

Plants in Chicago and Dallas have beefed up security on the ground and in
the water, said Ken Kirk, executive director of the metropolitan sewerage
association, and several large cities are considering accelerating bleach

Emergency planners have been heavily focused on biological or chemical
contamination of drinking water. But water sources for big city systems turn
out to be difficult targets, because they require large amounts of
contaminants to be compromised and because utilities already test for many
chemical and biological agents, EPA officials said.

Plants themselves and their supplies are less well guarded, which managers
are rectifying but are loath to discuss. The Bush administration has
proposed allocating $34.5 million to assess vulnerabilities, while the FBI
and Sandia National Laboratories are helping water installations find
weaknesses and communicate threats more quickly.

Also, water companies have stripped Internet sites of plant details as a
security precaution. The federal government has removed information about
15,000 chemical storage sites and emergency response plans from the Web,
arousing concerns that information is being withheld from communities at

"Before September 11th . . . you would have looked at vandalism, you would
have looked at breaking-and-entering as more of a risk to you than a plane
falling out of the sky," VanDe Hei said. "The assessment is different

(c) 2001 The Washington Post Company

-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas Vinson [mailto:TVINSON@tceq.state.tx.us] 
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2003 11:43 AM
To: p2tech@great-lakes.net
Subject: NPR Series on Homeland Security at Chemical Plants

NPR's Morning Edition is doing a series of stories on security at Chemical
Plants.  This morning they mentioned P2 at a wastewater treatment plant
outside of Washington D.C.  The plant had switched from a chlorine based
product to a safer chemical.

Anyone know the details?

The story should be on the npr.org website tomorrow if you want to read
about it.

Tomas Vinson-Peng

Fax: 512/239-3165
Phone: 512/239-3182

Engineering Specialist
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
PO Box 13087
Austin, Tx 78711-3087

Disclaimer:  Regulatory guidance  e-mails are provided to quickly get you an
answer to legal requirements.  They are not a substitute for compliance with
the regulation, but guidance based on the best information available to the
staff of TNRCC at the time.

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