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"It goes into your city as a cold dense killing cloud," hazardous materials consultant says of chlorine disasters

Photograph of a derailed chlorine car in Graniteville, South Carolina with "cold dense cloud" beginning to form.

A Canadian company is dumping its "waste chlorine" into the markets of the United States and by doing so,  alleges a hazardous material expert in Washington, DC, the company is endangering the lives of millions of citizens in and beyond Vancouver. Washington, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis have  banned chlorine from being transported along their rails and Fred Millar, the  hazardous materials expert, says the Olympics offers a "teachable moment" to Vancouver regarding the dangers of transporting the chlorine through the city.

A spill, according to the chlorine industry itself, could kill people within 15 miles of the track. The information is out there, and it's scary.  But, I wonder as I sift through my notes, after talking to Millar, does Vancouver want to learn?

 Strategy to keep people in the dark?

"As if this wasn’t used in WWI. It was so damn effective. It kills people so horribly. When you inhale chlorine, you burn your lungs, and you drown in your own fluids. It is a horrible death. It is so horrible that in WWI they outlawed chlorine gas. In the countries that fought, the diplomats made a gentleman’s agreement that chlorine was too horrible to use in warfare. But the punch line of all that is: 'My God they didn’t outlaw the machine gun, but they outlawed chlorine.' Apparently they can slaughter millions with a machine gun but death by chlorine is too horrible. Basically people are facing a horrible, horrible risk and communities are being kept in the dark about it. That’s the only way you can ship chlorine around the country like it’s peanut butter. Keep people in the dark."

Meet Fred Millar, of Washington, DC. He's very upset about what he sees as a risk to millions from chlorine transports.

Fred Millar, a hazardous material transportation and security consultant believes Canadians in general and Vancouverites in particular are ignorant. I'm personally shocked that the reporting from the Vancouver Observer of the dangers chlorine poses to the city has not led to television stories, radio stories, Globe and Mail stories---and ultimately public hearings that would ban chlorine from passing through our city. 

"The only reason they’re moving their rail cars out of Vancouver is rail security," Millar said, after reading the Vancouver Observer/Tyee story yesterday and phoning to fill in more of the picture. "Only Washington DC enacted a mandatory re-routing (ban) of chlorine and other ultra hazardous chemical cargoes by rail and truck - and got stymied by a lawsuit from the railroads and the Bush Admin.  The 9 other cities (and 2 states) introduced ordinances but did not enact them waiting for the DC court case to resolve."  

Foreign policy puts Canada at risk? 

"My argument to Canadians has been, 'if you guys had a sensible foreign policy where you were not in bed with the American occupying Arab countries all over the place, you wouldn't be a target.' But dammit you have been in bed with America in America’s misadventures. The recent terrorist attacks that have been most sensational in transportation have been against Spain and England. They killed 192 people in Spain. Immediately Spain withdrew their troops. In England, the Blair administration's support of America has been very unpopular. They attacked London with four bombs in the transit system that killed 50 people. I’m just talking about transportation attacks connected with the countries that supported US occupations on Arab lands. That is a whole discussion here in the US."

Millar contradicted a Canexus official's assertion that the chlorine rail cars that will allegedly be parked in the back yard of a Washington State couple are strong enough to withstand it if someone threw a grenade at them. "Not a single tank car in this country has ever been made to withstand a terrorist attack. They put on thermal insulation, a new coupling device and head shields: a big metal wall. The only thing a chlorine tank car is made to withstand is a general roll down the hill."

Let Bhopal be a warning? What follows now is a direct transcript of my conversation with Millar. In his words:

After the Union Carbide accident in Bhopal, India everybody was asking 'can it happen here?' Methyl Isocyanate leaked into Bhopal overnight and killed an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people. And about 100,000 were injured. Maybe 200,000. Now Union Carbide has been bought by Dow Chemical. Dow Chemical has just announced that they’ve reduced their poison gas cargos like chlorine and others (TIH—toxic by inhalation) that they’ve reduced their cargo by 40% and will reduce it by another 50% in the next few years."

"The main point here is the shippers of really dangerous cargos are increasingly concerned about the use of these cargos as a terrorist weapon. The Dow announcement is one example of that.

If Canadians only knew...

Canadians have been kept so innocent in all of this and I could not get one Canadian news agency to cover this. They say we don’t think we can get a story about rail security because we’ve been covering rail accidents.

Clorox ditches chlorine

Here’s what I need to explain to you about Chlorox. They aren’t going to ship liquefied gas. 

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