Because Homeland Security Allows Chemical Plants to Self-Report Toxic Releases, 44% are Wrong

Sunday, August 02, 2015
Chemical plant explosion in Geismar, Louisiana (photo: WWL-TV)

A study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that hundreds of chemical plants are incorrectly reporting the “Distance of Concern” which defines how large an area may be subject to toxic effects of a chemical release.


The Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) of the Department of Homeland Security requires plants to use a web-based tool to report what their Distance of Concern is and thus define the area in which exposure to a toxic chemical cloud could cause serious injury or fatalities from short-term exposure. The GAO report (pdf) estimated that more than 2,700 of the estimated 6,400 facilities, or 44%, misreported the Distance of Concern. “By verifying that the data ISCD used in its risk assessment are accurate, ISCD could better ensure it has identified the nation’s high-risk chemical facilities,” the report said.


The GAO also found that ISCD has not instituted measures to ensure that facilities that aren’t following their approved security plans get into compliance. “Almost half (34 of 69) of facilities ISCD inspected as of February 2015 had not implemented one or more planned measures by deadlines specified in their approved site security plans and therefore were not fully compliant with their plans,” the GAO reported.


The GAO recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) verify that the Distance of Concerns reported by facilities are accurate and that the department document processes and procedures for managing compliance with site security plans. DHS agreed with the recommendations.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

GAO: Thousands of Chemical Facilities Incorrectly Reported Data About Toxic Release Threats (by Andy Szal, ChemInfo)

Critical Infrastructure Protection: DHS Action Needed to Verify Some Chemical Facility Informationa and Manage Compliance Process (Government Accountability Office) (pdf)

85% of Midwest Facilities Storing 9 Toxic Chemicals have no Public Risk Management Plan (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

2 Fatal Chemical Plant Explosions in 2 Days in Louisiana (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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