By Mary Kuhlman
Close to 140,000 Hoosier kids spend several hours each weekday in the shadows of potentially dangerous chemical facilities, according to a new report. At the Center for Effective Government, director of open government policy Sean Moulton says parents and community members need to better understand the risks these facilities pose, and to push for changes. He says the deadly explosion in the town of West, Texas, one year ago, that destroyed one school and damaged two others, should serve as a wake-up call.
"Students do fire drills every day, but I don't think many of these schools have ever really talked about what their plan would be if one of these facilities had a major accident while school was in session."
Moulton says more than 100 advocacy groups continue to recommend stronger disclosure rules and greater oversight of chemical facilities, as well as better emergency response plans. An interactive map showing which schools across the country are located near chemical facilities is available on the Center for Effective Government's website.
Moulton says one of the most important things the federal government can do to protect children and communities is to require these facilities to use safer chemicals and processes, whenever feasible.
"They have a responsibility to the communities that they operate within - to protect them, to protect their workers - and we think that the government should step in."
Moulton points to the example of water treatment plants, many of which have switched from using chlorine gas, which would create a poisonous cloud if a spill occurred, to a much safer form of liquid chlorine, which would simply form a puddle.