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Chemical Spill Causes Partial Evacuation in Dover, Del.

If you're familiar with the corridor running up and down the East Coast from New York City down to Baltimore, I-95, you know that its dotted with chemical processing plants and manufacturing facilities. Soft targets perhaps. Certainly, the concentration of these plants in areas of high population density makes them a serious risk, whether because of a terrorist attack or due to an accidental release of toxic materials. The lack of security at chemical plants has continued to be an issue with local politicians like Senator Charles Schumer.

On Friday, a leak of the chemical styrene caused a partial evacuation of areas surrounding Reichhold Chemical, a latex manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Cheswold Delaware.

- Witnesses initially reported a fog hovering on the ground near the plant and then a foul odor. At least 23 people were treated at Kent General Hospital in Dover. Two still were being treated at 1 a.m.

- State police said the spill originated from a rail car carrying styrene monomer, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

- The leak involved a tanker containing 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of the colorless, oily liquid. Heavy or long-term exposure to styrene can cause respiratory, neurological and reproductive problems, according to federal health and industry reports.

40 homes and businesses were evacuated

The advisory for residents living within a five-mile radius of the Reichhold Chemical plant to stay indoors because of a chemical spill there Friday evening has been lifted.

However, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources today announced a mandatory evacuation of about 40 homes and businesses within a 1,500-foot radius of the plant on the outskirts of Cheswold.

State officials described the mandatory evacuation as a “precautionary measure” but said it’s necessary “to ensure the safety of people in the vicinity of the plant site.”

DNREC said it expects that the mandatory evacuation could last for up to 12 hours, but added that the time frame could change.

Styrene

Dow Reichhold Specialty Latex

Delaware Department of Transportation road closure report

The "after action" reporting on this incident should be interesting to see in the context of how we might respond to an attack on a chemical facility. This incident also supports the contention of many small(er) area politicians that their areas deserve to receive anti-terrorism funding from the DHS (thinking of smaller towns and states where chemical plants like this one exist).

Reference

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