Originally created 01/19/00

Meeting to examine accident scenarios



Richmond County's largest makers and users of dangerous chemicals will offer the public an opportunity Thursday to learn about accidents that will probably never happen.

Fourteen industries, along with Fort Gordon and Augusta-Richmond County's Utilities Department, will offer a public risk management program from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at Julian Smith Casino.

Under federal law, companies that make or use dangerous chemicals are required to create a "worst case" accident scenario detailing the consequences of the worst possible accident at the worst possible time.

Although frightening, such worst case situations rarely occur, said Virgil Fowler, chairman of the Richmond County Local Emergency Planning Committee, which is sponsoring the program with local industries.

Companies will also provide a "more credible chemical release" scenario detailing the types of accidents that could theoretically happen, he said.

The laws that require such programs evolved after the December 1984 incident in Bhopal, India, in which leaking chemicals from a Union Carbide facility killed 2,000 people. The intent is to keep communities informed.

Although Augusta's industrial community has an excellent safety record in terms of chemical accidents, statistics show almost half the hazardous materials at Georgia's 25 largest chemical plants are located here.

According to a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, six companies -- PCS Nitrogen, General Chemical, Olin, DSM, Procter & Gamble and PVC Technologies -- store 93.8 million pounds of the 207.5 million pounds of hazardous chemicals at 25 major sites statewide.

Robert Pregulman, PIRG's southern field organizer, said Augusta's emergency planning programs are excellent and well ahead of other cities in the state.

"The good news is, with regards to Augusta, is that the LEPC has always gone above and beyond what most other emergency planning groups have done and really made an effort to inform the community about the chemicals stored there," he said.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.

Participants

AC Industries

BP-Amoco

Fort Gordon

International Flavors & Fragrances

Olin Corp.

PCS Nitrogen

Rutgers Organics

Shapiro Packing Co.

International Paper

Augusta Richmond County Utilities

DSM Chemicals

General Chemical

Monsanto

OMI Inc.

Procter & Gamble

Schwerman Trucking