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Jefferson County Will Establish National Toxic-Spill Center

October 13, 1987

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ A federal agency has given the Jefferson County Board of Health a contract to establish a national training center for preventing and responding to hazardous-material spills.

The contract, which could be worth $860,000 over five years, will bring about 200 public-safety and health officials to Louisville each year to study local plans for responding to such accidents.

Plans call for about 10 weeklong programs a year, with 20 people attending each. Participants will be chosen by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta, which awarded the contract.

Jefferson County health officials also will offer seminars in other cities and receive federal money to refine their own emergency-response plans.

Jefferson County was chosen because of its good plans for responding to hazardous-material accidents, said Tom Bartenfeld, emergency-response coordinator for the federal agency.

″The county plan is a very, very complex contingency plan that includes a lot of different agencies in the county and city government,″ Bartenfeld said. ″Everybody from public works to the health department to the fire department to the police department seems to work well together and communicate.″

Clark Bledsoe, the county’s director of environmental health, who will run the center, said the county’s program grew out of a 1977 seminar on radiation contamination problems.

He said health department and Disaster and Emergency Services staffers who attended began to think of ways to apply the same principles to chemical accidents. The program has grown to include more than 20 local agencies.

Bledsoe said incidents such as 1981 sewer explosions and a 1984 series of chemical spills dramatized the importance of the program.

″We could have had an incident here and an incident there and turned our back and walked away and said, ’Thank God no one got hurt in that one,‴ he said. ″But people have had the drive to say we don’t want anyone to get hurt at the next one and one after that.″

The county will be paid $201,000 during this federal fiscal year. The federal government will have the option to renew the contract for up to four more years.

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