CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the U.S. Chemical Safety Board prepares to release another report expected to criticize plant operations in the Kanawha Valley, local health department officials are concerned about the lack of progress on the board's recommendation for a new program aimed at preventing leaks, fires and explosions at area plants.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said he's worried the board's recommendation hasn't gone anywhere since it was first proposed more than six months ago.
"Every day that is lost places people working there and living in these neighborhoods at risk," Gupta said in an interview Wednesday.
Gupta supports the CSB's January 2011 recommendation that his agency work through the existing authority of the state Department of Health and Human Resources to develop a Kanawha Valley chemical plant safety program.
The proposal was the central recommendation in the CSB's long-awaited final report on the August 2008 explosion and fire that killed two workers at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute.
CSB investigators said the safety program could be modeled after a highly successful one in Contra Costa County, Calif. Generally, such a program would require companies to submit safety plans, require regular government safety audits of plants, and give the public a greater say in monitoring safety performance at local companies. The program could be funded by a fee paid by companies that make, use and store dangerous chemicals.
Gupta expects the CSB to reaffirm its recommendation this morning, when it releases its report on a series of accidents at the DuPont Belle plant in January 2010, including a phosgene leak that killed longtime plant worker Danny Fish.