Chemical Plant Security: Missed Opportunity

January 19, 2006 (Kearny, NJ).  Jonathan Dienst of WNBC-TV recently reported on security at chemical plants in Essex County.  Parts of the report appeared to show the outside of the Kuehne Chemical Plant in South Kearny.  What Jonathan Dienst discovered is old news.  The lack of security at New Jersey's chemical plants has been known for years.  What is shocking is that nobody has made chemical plant security a major priority. Governor Jon Corzine stated in the WNBC report that "It's time for the public to get angry" and that Jonathan Dienst's highlighting of the problem was an act in the public interest.  Jon Corzine has been at the forefront of trying to get the chemical industry to tighten its security.  He had very little success at the federal level at accomplishing that. (See our Environmental Page to links on his efforts).

In May of 2003, two Kearny residents, former councilwoman Rosa Alves and her husband Frank Ferreira, exposed the lack of security at the Kuehne Chemical Plant in South Kearny.  Their video of the gapping hole in the main gate of the plant demonstrated that the plant was wide open for an attack.  After they brought the matter to the town's attention, security measures were put into place including the guarding of the plant by a Kearny Police Task Force.  Why Kearny taxpayers had to pay for a private company's security made no sense but at least it was a step in the right direction.   Some of our elected officials including Mayor Alberto Santos went as far as to say that former Councilwoman Rosa Alves and her husband Frank Ferreira were "grandstanding" when they brought the matter to the Mayor and council's attention on several occasions.  What Governor Corzine deemed as an act in the public interest (exposing poor security at our chemical plants), Mayor Santos considered to be alarmist ("grandstanding").  I guess the Mayor should apologize and state as Governor Jon Corzine has stated that highlighting the problem was an act in the public interest.  Somehow, I doubt he will. 

Will security improve in South Kearny?  Who will foot the bill?  What is the Mayor's position on the Kuehne Chemical plant now?   It took from May of 2003 to January of 2006, for a New York television station to finally realize what two Kearny residents armed with a video camera and some guts realized three years ago.  Unfortunately since then very little has been done to secure New Jersey's chemical industry from a terrorist attack.  Let's hope that Jon Corzine as Governor can be more effective in securing our chemical industry than our former governors.  Maybe he should start with the Kuehne plant.

Visit our Environmental Page for the link to the WNBC reports.

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