US says 7,000 chem sites at high risk for attack

20 June 2008 22:52  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Approximately 7,000 US chemical plants and other facilities will be notified next week that they are at high risk for possible terrorist attack and must begin beefing up their security, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Friday.


The department identified the 7,000 high-risk sites after reviewing reports submitted by more than 32,000 facilities as required by law under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).


Those regulations include a list of 300 chemicals and minimum amounts for each that triggered reporting by chemical manufacturers, storage sites or any other location that holds threshold amounts of one or more of the listed substances.


Department spokesperson Laura Keehner said that formal notices to the 7,000 sites will be going out early next week and will be completed over a period of weeks.


The 7,000 sites will be divided into four tiers on the basis of the extent of damage that might result if a location were attacked by terrorists or if substances held on site were to be sabotaged or stolen for use as a weapon elsewhere.


For obvious security reasons, the department will not identify any of the 7,000 facilities, their locations or how many sites will fall into which of the four risk tiers.


Those facilities designated for tier one - the highest risk category - will be contacted first and directly by the department, Keehner said, in order to expedite the security improvements that might be needed at those sites.


Each of the 7,000 sites will now be required to complete a security vulnerability assessment (SVA), which will be reviewed by the department.  DHS officials will identify shortcomings or weak points for each facility, which then must develop and implement a site security plan (SSP) to meet the department’s standards and, for the tier one locations, pass an on-site inspection.


Depending on its tier ranking, each high-risk facility will have from 90 to 180 days to complete its vulnerability assessment. Those that fail to do so could be subject to fines and even court-ordered shutdown.


Keehner said the 7,000 locations designated as being at high risk for a terrorist attack include large chemical production and storage facilities, as might be expected, but there are also some non-traditional sites as well, such as hospitals, educational institutions and packaging plants.


Congress is now considering new antiterrorism security requirments for chemical facilities and other sites.  The new legislation is not likely to pass until next year but must be enacted before the end of 2009 when the current CFATS statutory mandate expires.  Chemical industry officials have been critical of the pending legislation on grounds it is more far-reaching than the existing mandate. 


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By: Joe Kamalick
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