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One-third of ND Kids at Schools Near High-Risk Chemical Facilities

PHOTO: A new analysis finds that 34 percent of public school students in North Dakota attend classes within one mile of a so-called "high-risk chemical facility." That's the highest rate in the country. Image courtesy Center for Effective Government.
PHOTO: A new analysis finds that 34 percent of public school students in North Dakota attend classes within one mile of a so-called "high-risk chemical facility." That's the highest rate in the country. Image courtesy Center for Effective Government.
April 28, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. - It's a dubious distinction for North Dakota: The state has the nation's highest percentage of children attending school near a so-called "high-risk chemical facility." According to a new analysis from the Center for Effective Government, one out of three students is affected, said Sean Moulton, the Center's director of Open Government Policy.

"The figure was 210 schools within a mile of an RMP (Risk Management Plan) facility, with a total attendence of just under 33,000 students. That represents more than a third of the students going to public schools in North Dakota. It was 34 percent," Moulton said.

An interactive map showing which North Dakota schools are located near chemical facilities can be found on the Center for Effective Government website.

While some may think immediately of facilities associated with the oil boom for the high rate, Moulton said the biggest piece of the puzzle is actually North Dakota agriculture.

"It's a large amount of fertilizer facilities - not just manufacturers, but storage facilities that store ammonium nitrate for distribution to farmers - that are near the communities. It's easier to distribute to farmers when you're close to where everyone lives," he explained.

Ensuring that students near these facilities are safe requires stronger disclosure rules and greater oversight, he added, as well as better emergency response plans.

It was one year ago this month that an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, left 15 dead, hundreds injured and several schools damaged or destroyed.

An interactive map is online at http://tesla.foreffectivegov.org/.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND