TransCaer Seminar Emphasizes LEPC Purpose in Transportation Safety

Jan. 1, 1998
Local emergency planning committees (LEPC) must be proactive in gathering information about the transportation of hazardous materials from industry sources,

Local emergency planning committees (LEPC) must be proactive in gathering information about the transportation of hazardous materials from industry sources, said Dennis J Ashworth, manager of hazardous materials transportation and emergency response, Chevron Chemical Company.

"LEPCs should ask for, perhaps even demand, any help that they need from different sources in the chemical industry," Ashworth said. "The more prepared LEPCs are, the better they can serve their communities and the environment.

"Despite the chemical industry's commitment to continuous transportation safety improvement, accidents will happen. Once an accident occurs, a knowledgeable, well-prepared local LEPC is the most effective means of minimizing the impact of the accident on the public and environment."

Ashworth spoke at the third annual TransCaer workshop held October 7-8 in Houston, Texas. TransCaer (Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response) is a nationwide interindustry program designed to assist communities in developing and evaluating emergency response plans for hazardous materials transportation incidents. The program links chemical manufacturers, distributors, transporters, and local communities.

LEPCs are responsible for developing, testing, and modifying community emergency response plans. They were established to comply with the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act).

Evaluation of risk is one of the first steps in chemical transportation safety, Ashworth said. "You can't develop plans and gather information on every possible incident that could happen. There needs to be some type of priority to determine what mode of transportation has the greatest chance of an accident.

"Commodity flow surveys conducted by local citizens can determine the specific hazardous materials being transported through the community. I am somewhat concerned about whether enough LEPCs are conducting flow surveys, rather than just talking about them."

After chemicals have been identified from flow surveys, the next step is to determine the level of risk from low to very high based on a monthly exposure, which can be measured in terms of the number of shipments and volume of products transported by various modes.

To gather information about the chemicals and the transportation operations associated with them, LEPCs should use material safety data sheets, emergency response information, carrier safety procedures, manufacturer information, and product brochures.

This information is available from trade associations such as the Chemical Manufacturers Association, Chemical Transportation Emergency Center, Hazardous Materials Advisory Council, National Tank Truck Carriers Inc, American Waterways Operators, and Association of American Railroads.

"LEPCs also should call on shippers and carriers to hold emergency response drills within the community," Ashworth said. "Tabletop drills and field exercises provide an extremely effective method of training, identifying any gaps in emergency response plans, and continuous improvement."

C Scott Joublanc, manager of emergency preparedness materials and services department, Exxon Chemical Americas, provided a step-by-step approach by TransCaer members to assist LEPCs with their development and review of emergency response plans. The first steps establish contact with the LEPC and review its existing emergency plans.

TransCaer representatives also should help the LEPC to create a transportation advisory group, implement a flow study, make appropriate revisions to the response plan, review emergency response resources and training needs, participate in annual exercises to test the plan, and establish an ongoing dialogue with local officials, response agencies, and the public. The final step is a periodic review to assess the effectiveness and shortcomings of the overall program.

Workshop participants visited the Beaumont Industrial Park in Beaumont, Texas, and DuPont's training facility, which includes tank containers, tank trailers, and an emergency response truck used in hazardous materials training courses. DuPont uses three specially constructed tank cars that can simulate more than 140 different type of leaks using water and air. The company also has three ISO standard tank containers to simulate gas and liquid leaks.

The tour of the facility concluded with a steak dinner and award ceremony. Raymond P Beaudry, manager of corporate emergency response & regulatory training, DuPont Safety, Health & Environment, presented the 1997 DuPont Safety, Health, and Environmental Excellence Award and $5,000 to TransCaer. David O'Loughlin, TransCaer chairman and manager of chemical merchandising & Responsible Care for Ingram Barge Company, accepted the award. DuPont selected TransCaer from more than 600 nominations for the award because of its contributions in the areas of safety, health, and environment.