Report: nearly 79,000 Utah kids attend school near chemical facility

Do your kids go to school near a potentially dangerous chemical facility? The Center for Effective Government says there is a one in 10 chance they do, and its new report includes a map of those sites. Image courtesy Center for Effective Government.

SALT LAKE CITY – Nearly 79,000 students in Utah spend several hours each weekday in the shadow of a potentially dangerous chemical facility, according to a new report.

Parents and community members need to better understand the risks these facilities pose and push for changes, said Sean Moulton, director of open-government policy at the Center for Effective Government. He said the deadly explosion in the town of West, Texas, one year ago, which destroyed one school and damaged two others, should serve as a wake-up call. 

“Students do fire drills every day,” he said, “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.”

Utah has 131 schools within one mile of a facility, according to the report, and the Center for Effective Government has an interactive map on its website. More than 100 advocacy groups continue to recommend stronger disclosure rules and greater oversight of chemical facilities, Moulton said, as well as better emergency response plans.

Moulton said he believes 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 said.

Moulton pointed 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.

The interactive map is online at <a href=”” target=”parent”></a>.

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