By Zach Sanchez/Public Citizen
Following the chemical leak at DuPont’s La Porte facility that killed four people, our allies in the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) called for heightened protection for employees at plants using deadly chemicals and for residents living around the facilities.On Saturday, four workers at the plant — about 30 miles from Houston and about 14 miles from Pasadena — died after a leak of about 100 pounds of methyl mercaptan. The plant had been cited numerous times for leaks ouers times for leaks.
In a press statement and interviews with the Houston Chronicle, and ABC, Telemundo and Univision television stations, the coalition repeated its call for federal government officials and the City of Pasadena to begin using a reverse 911 system and mobile text alerts to warn residents about chemical accidents and leaks at plants and refineries near their homes. The system, a kind of Amber alert for chemical spills, would robocall residents in affected areas, providing information on evacuation and shelters, while mobile text alerts would send similar information to cell phone users.
Mari Cruz, who lives in Pasadena and is a member of Texas Organizing Project (TOP), said: “Houston and Pasadena residents, particularly children, are at risk from accidents like the deadly DuPont leak. “We need to know that dangerous chemicals are being produced and used at plants near their homes. We need an emergency notification system when accidents happen. This weekend’s tragedy shows that it’s matter of life and death.”
Houston is home to over 400 chemical manufacturing facilities, and many of them are located next to primarily low-income residential areas. Residents in northern Pasadena, Deer Park, and the Houston neighborhoods of Manchester, Pleasantville and Denver Harbor live near or at the fence-line of chemical plants where leaks and spills are chronic.
“There are leaks and spills at Houston plants on a daily basis, and the people who live near them are chronically exposed to deadly chemicals,” said Hillary Corgey, a researcher for Public Citizen’s Texas office, which is also a member of HPCC. “People have health problems and full-blown illnesses because of the exposure. But this does not get investigated because it is a slow-moving tragedy. The EPA, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the companies themselves should be doing a much better job of protecting the public and the environment from deadly chemicals.”