|Letters From West
County Times Readers - Richmond Has Not Learned Deadly Lesson
August 30, 1995
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Wednesday, August 30, 1995
The city of Richmond has once again greased up its infamous approval mill for a project that is bad for the city and potentially deadly for its residents.
General Chemical, the company that only two years ago brought us the worst chemical disaster in Richmond history, is now requesting approval of a plan to increase the use and production of oleum (sulfuric acid), the substance that sent 24,000 people to the hospital and clinics in 1993.
Following the disaster, General Chemical was charged with multiple criminal and civil violations of the law, including failure of employees to properly maintain equipment, failure to provide appropriate and necessary training to employees, failure to have an incident command procedure in place, failure to provide employees with proper protective equipment, operating a source of air contaminants which causes injury, negligently emitting an air contaminant, and half a dozen other codes and regulations.
As a penalty, General Chemical paid $1.18 million in fines to government agencies.
In addition, General Chemical announced a $180 million settlement of civil litigation with persons injured in the release.
One would think, with a record like that, the city of Richmond would be very careful in approving a project that would, "in the event of an accident," have "a potential for oleum to be released and result in a cloud of sulfuric trioxide gas moving off-site, potentially impacting sensitive receptors (city-speak for homes and schools)."
The previous quote is from LSA Associates, Inc., the firm the city hired to perform the preliminary environmental analysis.
LSA went on to conclude: "This chemical is a hazardous chemical. If this chemical is not managed properly, there is potential to pose a risk to public health and the environment."
Throwing caution and common sense to the wind, the city examined General Chemical's unseemly record of managing chemicals and concluded, without a shred of evidence, that the project would, in fact, be constructed and managed properly in conformance with all laws and regulations.
The city now proposes to adopt a "negative declaration," which states that the project would have no potential adverse impacts, involve no hazards and require no mitigation.
When will we ever learn? There will be a hearing at 2 p.m. today in the Richmond City Hall Shimada Room to approve the negative declaration.
Any person who believes the city should be more responsible should attend the hearing and demand a full environmental impact report, or write Larry Sutton, Richmond Planning Department, 2600 Barrett Ave., Richmond, CA 94804.
Thomas K. Butt