The United States Congress is considering legislation that aims to increase the security of America’s chemical industry to terrorism threats. The legislation, if passed, would require chemical companies to substitute government-mandated processes and technology for their current processes. The post Chemical security law goes beyond protection explains more about this legislation.
Even places that we might not consider to be “chemical plants” could fall under this act.
The Center for American Progress — described by Wikipedia as “a liberal political policy research and advocacy organization,” an understatement if there ever was one — has produced a report titled Chemical Security 101: What You Don’t Have Can’t Leak, or Be Blown Up by Terrorists.
The Wichita Water Treatment Plant appears on their list of 202 additional facilities that should be required to change their processes, according to the report. The Wichita plant appears because it uses chlorine to treat drinking water, and, apparently, because it’s located in a large city.
I asked David Warren, Director of Utilities for the City of Wichita, about the proposed legislation and about the Wichita Water Treatment Plant being on a list of dangerous facilities.
While declining — understandably so — to discuss specifics of security at the Wichita plant, he said that if the legislation passes and is found to apply to Wichita’s plant, “it would require expensive changes in our treatment process.”
He also said that the reason for the Wichita plant’s inclusion on the list is due to its location (near the center of Wichita) rather than to any defect in security precautions.
It would be one thing if these changes were necessary and would contribute to national security. But Congressional testimony found that the legislation could actually increase risk to the businesses that the bill intends to protect.
Wichita water rates are already on the rise as the city undertakes capital improvement projects. It’s unknown how much bills might increase if the water plant was forced to make changes to its treatment technology.
But even slight increase can cause hardship. Last year Wichita city council member Lavonta Williams expressed concern that a $1 per month increase in water bills would be a hardship. And in her campaign last year, she stated “We need to start the conversation with service providers about whether we can offer laid-off workers reduced rates for water, heat and other essential services.”