Hearing Airs Suggestions For Improving Chemical Emergency Response
Feb. 19, 1985
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A communications network linking emergency workers, better protective equipment for firefighters and a national law to let the public know of chemical risk were among suggestions put before a Senate hearing on community response to chemical leaks.
Monday's hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was chaired by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who said he would use the testimony to prepare legislation aimed at improving local preparedness for chemical catastrophe.
Joseph T. McGough Jr., commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, said he would support federal regulations requiring more efficient systems for reporting noxious or toxic releases.
He proposed a ''state-of-the-art, computer-assisted communications system'' linking industrial sites to all appropriate emergency response agencies.
''This would replace the current system of serial telephone calls which is inherently slower and can lead to inaccurate reports,'' said McGough, who expressed concern about recent emissions that have affected residents of nearby Staten Island, N.Y.
McGough joined other witnesses, including Rep. James Florio, D-N.J., and New Jersey Health Commissioner J. Richard Goldstein, in calling for a national law requiring companies to disclose what hazardous substances they use and store.
''This law should consider the community's right to know what chemicals are present in its midst as well as the employee's right to know what the chemicals are with which he is working,'' Goldstein said in written testimony.
''Such a law should also require facilities containing hazardous substances to develop emergency response plans in conjunction with local and state authorities,'' he said.
Chemical indueve anything our workers know should be part of community knowledge,'' said Kin Tsu, manager of the American Cyanamid Co. plant in Linden, where there have been three recent accidents including the Oct. 6 release of the pesticide malathion that sent more than 100 people to hospitals.
James Butler, chairman of the New Jersey Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association's safety committee, said most fire departments lack the protective clothing and air monitoring devices needed to adequately protect firefighters confronted with burning toxic materials.
Partly as a result, the cancer death rate among firefighters is nearly double the national rate, Butler said.