Originally created 02/12/99

Committee drops proposal on warning system



A proposal to ask industries to help finance better warning systems for residents living near major chemical plants was abandoned Thursday by the Richmond County Local Emergency Planning Committee.

"We can't do it unless there's money, and I think the industries have little interest," LEPC Chairman Virgil Fowler said.

Interest in warning systems to supplement sirens, radios and television notification escalated after a pair of releases at General Chemical on Nov. 17 and 19 sent 90 people to area hospitals.

In December, the committee heard a proposal from New York-based Community Alert Network for an automated telephone warning system that could call 8,600 households per hour and would be used whenever a chemical accident occurred.

Mr. Fowler said current notification systems will have to suffice for now, because neither the industrial community nor local government has the funds to finance such a system. The matter was tabled indefinitely.

Richmond County Emergency Management Director Pam Tucker said the public eventually may resurrect the issue if chemical spills occur in the future.

General Chemical has since reassured the community there will be no repeat of the November incidents and has applied to become a member of the LEPC.

The committee, created in 1996, has 24 members representing government, industry, emergency response officials, educators and the public. Its mission is to keep the public informed about emergency response issues relating to the presence of dangerous chemicals in the community.