From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 4 - April 16, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

In-town chemical storage questioned

by Tiffany Turner

Industry is industry and town is town. Industry is located on the outskirts and their storage and additional operations, with the exception of their offices, are located on lots adjoining the industrial operations, right?

Not always.

Linda Baker, an environmental activist and long-time resident of Sublette County, brought a different scenario to the Pinedale Town Council’s attention at its Monday meeting.

According to Baker, she had viewed the gallon drums in the storage facility and began investigating the contents. In direct opposition of the Community Right to Know Act, Baker said she was denied the Tier II and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) that would explain the contents and their hazards, by Bob Hanson, contact person for Sublette County’s Local Emergency Planning Coordination (LEPC).

Baker was then able to receive the information from Baker-Petrolite and she said was surprised to learn that such items were being housed in a commercial zone within the town limits.

She requested the town revisit the permit granted for the commercial district, stating her concern for citizens in the area.

“This facility is closely spaced between two private residences, across the street from a church, and near the new restaurant that the Council had just discussed at the meeting last night,” Baker said after the meeting.

Baker said the list of housed chemicals she received had hazards including “Vapors that can flow along surfaces to a distant ignition source and flash back” and potential health hazards including “central nervous system and/or irritation if inhaled.”

“There is a very real possibility that a nearby ignition source, perhaps from an accidental fire at one of the residences, may cause a huge explosion affecting many nearby homes and potentially killing many people,” Baker said. “The church and the restaurant are places where people congregate. In addition, our emergency personnel would also be put in harm’s way should they respond to such an accident.”

Baker said she sees this chemical storage within the town as a huge lapse of judgment by the local and federal governments, and says she urges residents to take it upon themselves to ensure the safety of the community. She also invites that the local government needs to take more steps to ensure responsible permitting and action taken when regulations are broken.

“We should all be aware of the dangerous chemicals that are stored and used in Sublette County, and to make sure that this is done responsibly,” Baker said. “To accomplish this, it is necessary for our government to be transparent, participatory and collaborative. This promotes accountability and strengthens trust in our government.”

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