Chris Whitley, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, says the plant didn’t have the required emergency plan in place while the road leading to the plant is insufficient and sits in a flood plain.
Whitley says, “That settlement translates to a $20,000 civil penalty against the city and they’ve also agreed, and this is significant, to build a new access road to provide a better way for emergency vehicles to respond to any emergency that might occur at the plant.”
The new asphalt road will be built outside of the area’s 100-year flood plain and will cost at least $200,000. Not having that emergency plan in place is a critical violation of EPA regulations, according to Whitley, and Fort Dodge is agreeing to comply.
Whitley says, “Risk management programs are a very important component of operating any facility that uses or stores certain types of chemicals at certain thresholds amounts.” Those risk management programs and plans are required under the Clean Air Act for certain facilities that use any of dozens of specific chemicals.
“We’re talking about more than 2,500 pounds of chlorine gas, which, if it were accidentally released, it would have devastating results to the surrounding area,” Whitley says. “It’s very important for these facilities to have these types of plans in place.”
He says the John T. Pray Water Treatment Plant in Fort Dodge routinely stores and uses three to four times that amount of chlorine gas for its use in water treatment. If released, chlorine gas can be severely corrosive to the eyes, skin and lungs. Exposure to high concentrations can be fatal.