SAN PEDRO (CBSLA.com) — A California Congressman is urging the federal government to step up its regulation of a San Pedro tank farm that houses 25 million gallons of highly explosive gas.
The disputed facility is located on North Gaffney Street, where some tanks hold massive amounts of liquid petroleum product, including explosive ingredients like butane and propane, just 1,000 feet from homes, schools and businesses.
CBS2/KCAL9’s Dave Bryan reports U.S. Representative Henry Waxman wants a thorough safety inspection of the tank farm.
He says regulation of such volatile, flammable facilities must be made tougher and more effective.
“The law ought to require that first responders be able to deal with this situation, that they have a plan in place for any kind of emergency. We need to protect the surrounding community from an explosion, whether it’s from a terrorist attack or an accident. And the government has not acted at the federal level to do that,” Waxman said.
Waxman cited contradictory conclusions following inspections by two federal agencies – the EPA and the Homeland Security Department – leaving residents, some of whom live just a block or so away from the storage tanks, not knowing what to think.
For some local activists, the towering 80-foot storage tanks are monuments to a decades-long political battle to shut down the facility.
“No one, no one has investigated the real safety of this facility. It is absolutely just a ticking time bomb,” San Pedro activist Janet Schaaf-Gunter said.
“We’ve been battling this for decades – decades – And no one’s been listening.”
Part of the anxiety of local residents was the EPA warning that the operators of the tank farm had not properly shared the emergency and evacuation plans with local first responders – a key element in preparing response for firefighters, police and medical personnel when trouble does strike.
The operators of the plant say that problem has been significantly addressed.
They say the plant has been in operation for nearly 40 years without a single major incident, and that they have a very robust program of inspecting and replacing damaged or old pipelines that need to be replaced.
A spokesperson also said the facility has been audited dozens of times just in the last year and no major violation was found.