One Year after West, Texas: One in Ten Students Attends School in the Shadow of a Risky Chemical Facility

4/16/2014

PRESS RELEASE
-For Immediate Release-
April 16, 2014

Contact: Brian Gumm, bgumm@foreffectivegov.org, 202-683-4812

One Year after West, Texas: One in Ten Students Attends School in the Shadow of a
Risky Chemical Facility

Nationwide Interactive Map Details Schools, Communities at Risk

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2014—One year after the fertilizer facility explosion in West, Texas, which destroyed and severely damaged nearby schools, an analysis by the Center for Effective Government finds that nearly one in ten American schoolchildren live and study within one mile of a potentially dangerous chemical facility.

The analysis, displayed through an online interactive map, shows that 4.6 million children at nearly 10,000 schools across the country are within a mile of a facility that reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Risk Management Program. Factories, refineries, and other facilities that report to the program produce, use, and/or store significant quantities of certain hazardous chemicals identified by EPA as particularly risky to human health or the environment if they are spilled, released into the air, or are involved in an explosion or fire.

"The number of children who are potentially in harm's way is deeply troubling," said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government. "Minority and low-income kids bear the greatest risks, but no one is immune from this danger."

The Center's analysis found that California, Texas, and Illinois have the largest numbers of children at risk from dangerous chemicals. But the percentage of children at risk in other states like North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska is alarming: about a third of children in these three states attend a school within a mile of a facility with known chemical hazards.

Sean Moulton, director of open government policy at the Center for Effective Government, noted, "In the year since the West, Texas disaster, we've seen workers killed, drinking water poisoned, and entire towns evacuated. In state after state, town after town, people have been hurt or worse because of inadequate oversight, aging public and private infrastructure, and chemical industry battles against stronger standards and safeguards."

To make children safer in communities across the country, the Center for Effective Government and more than 100 other groups have called for stronger chemical information disclosure standards, better reporting to oversight agencies like the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, and more robust emergency response plans that are vetted with surrounding communities. But most importantly, the federal government must require that all facilities switch to inherently safer chemicals and processes whenever possible.

The new interactive map, from which this information was derived, is available online at http://tesla.foreffectivegov.org/RMPOne/bin-release/. Visitors can zoom in to a particular local area to see if their children's schools are located near a chemical plant or storage facility. Users can also search the map by school name or facility name.

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