Significant quantities of acutely hazardous materials at some 14,000 chemical manufacturers, water utilities, power plants, service companies, waste management facilities, and agricultural suppliers constitute potential pre-positioned weapons of mass effect. Approximately 450 of these facilities potentially threaten more than 100,000 people if hazardous substances are released.
Three toxic-inhalation-hazard substances—chlorine gas, anhydrous ammonia, and anhydrous sulfur dioxide—constitute more than half of the most serious risk to our society. DHS recognizes this risk, since chlorine gas is one of 15 risks highlighted in disaster planning scenarios developed in 2005. But it is unclear how effective DHS will be as a chemical security regulator (or the Bush administration wants it to be) with its limited budget and staff.
A comprehensive approach is needed that stretches across the entire chemical supply chain, from manufacture and transportation—arguably the point of highest risk—to storage and use. All major hazardous chemical producers and users should be subject to regulation. A viable risk-based strategy has to involve not just risk management but also the promotion of inherently more secure alternatives that would in essence remove many chemical facilities from the terrorist target list.
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