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Safe Chemicals and Facilities

Protecting fenceline communities and facility workers from toxic pollution and chemical disasters through the transition to safer chemicals

There are over 12,000 extremely hazardous chemical facilities across the nation. 

Working collaboratively towards safer chemical facilities:

  • We work closely with our strategic partner, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance (EJHA), to demand regulatory action to prevent chemical disasters, and implement protective policies which will benefit everyone in the U.S.—and especially the people most vulnerable to chemical disasters.

 

  • We're  calling for the EPA to strengthen its Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule, which regulates over 12,000 high-risk chemical facilities nationwide and is intended to prevent chemical disasters. Learn more about our Chemical Disaster Prevention Program.

 


Pam Nixon grew up in the area around Charleston, WV known as Chemical Valley, where the Elk and Kanawha Rivers are lined with plants owned by chemical industry giants Union Carbide, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer, and others. Many times during her 65 years of living there, she's had to shelter in placetape up windows and huddle inside her homewhen nearby plants experienced accidental explosions or chemical leaks.

In 2008, an explosion at a Bayer CropScience plant killed two people and injured eight more. In 2010, a series of incidents at a DuPont plant included the release of highly toxic phosgene (used during World War I as a chemical weapon). Then in January 2014, a chemical storage tank at Freedom Industries leaked 10,000 gallons of toxic MCHM into the Elk River, contaminating drinking water for 300,000 people in nine counties, and costing the local economy $19 million a day for each day drinking water was deemed unsafe.

Pam and her organization, People Concerned About Chemical Safety, are working locally to prevent chemical disasters and protect their drinking water from toxic spills. She also helps lead Coming Clean’s campaigns to move hazardous facilities across the country toward inherently safer chemicals and processes.

Our research and organizing have documented the extreme hazards faced by over 124 million people across the country who live within chemical disaster vulnerability zones, and the millions more who experience heightened risk of health problems because of daily air pollution or whose drinking water could be poisoned by a chemical spill at any time. We’ve shown how these hazards don’t threaten everyone equally: people of color and low-income people are much more likely to live near hazardous chemical facilities than the general population.

"No one deserves to live under these conditions. We aren’t a sacrifice zone, and we deserve the same protections that wealthier and more affluent communities in America get.” 

Pam Nixon, Charleston, West Virginia


Related resources and reports from Coming Clean:

  • Transitioning to Safer Substitutes Our infographic shows how a water reclamation plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico was able to stop storing dangerous quantities of chlorine gas on site by switching to an ultraviolet light disinfection system, after residents took action. 

 

  • Unprepared for Disaster: Chemical Hazards in the Wake of Hurricane Ida In this 2021 report, we profile three facilities in Louisiana that put communities at risk by releasing toxic chemicals into the environment after being hit with high winds and flooding from Hurricane Ida. We recommend several ways the EPA could meaningfully update its Risk Management Program to prevent chemical disasters from happening in the first place. 

 

 

  • Environmental Justice for Delaware: Mitigating Toxic Pollution in New Castle County Communities

    Exposure to high levels of environmental pollution is one of the many risks faced disproportionately by people of color and people living in poverty. People of color and people living below or near poverty levels are significantly more likely to live near industrial facilities that use large quantities of toxic chemicals and pose risks of major chemical disasters. The county of New Castle in northern Delaware is a case in point, according to this 2017 joint report with the Center for Science and Democracy, EJHA, and Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice.

  • Who's in Danger: Race, Poverty, and Chemical Disasters Our research shows that the people most at risk from chemical disasters are communities of color and low-income communities. 

 

 

  • Warning Signs: Toxic Air Pollution Identified at Oil and Gas Sites In 2012, twelve community groups in 6 states (Arkansas, Colorado, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming), with support from a team of national organizations and experts, decided to test the air near oil and gas development sites located in their communities. This report provides results from community air monitoring in those states near oil and gas development sites, including where hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activities or waste disposal are taking place.

2013 Explosion and Chemical Disaster in West, Texas