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Report: 8,000 AR Kids Attend Schools Near Chemical Facility

PHOTO: Do your children go to school near a potentially dangerous chemical facility? The Center for Effective Government's new report finds there is a one-in-10 chance they do. Image courtesy Center for Effective Government.
PHOTO: Do your children go to school near a potentially dangerous chemical facility? The Center for Effective Government's new report finds there is a one-in-10 chance they do. Image courtesy Center for Effective Government.
May 12, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Thousands of Arkansas school kids spend several hours each weekday in the shadow of a potentially dangerous chemical facility, according to a new report by the Center for Effective Government.

Sean Moulton, the center’s director of open government policy, says parents and community members need to better understand the risks these facilities pose, and to push for changes. The deadly explosion in West, Texas, one year ago that destroyed one school and damaged two others should serve as a wake-up call, he adds.

"Students do fire drills every day, but I don't think many of these schools have ever really talked about what their plan would be if one of these facilities had a major accident while school was in session," he points out.

Moulton says more than 100 advocacy groups continue to recommend stronger disclosure rules and greater oversight of chemical facilities, as well as better emergency response plans. An interactive map showing which schools are located near chemical facilities is available on the Center for Effective Government website.

Moulton says one of the most important things the federal government can do to protect children and communities is to require these facilities to use safer chemicals and processes, whenever feasible.

"They have a responsibility to the communities that they operate within – to protect them, to protect their workers – and we think that the government should step in," he says.

Moulton points to the example of water treatment plants, many of which have switched from using chlorine gas, which would create a poisonous cloud if a spill occurred, to a much safer form of liquid chlorine, which would simply form a puddle.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR