PES explosion on June 21, 2019. Photo credit to NBC Philadelphia. In South Jersey, this year we have a big reason to be grateful. In June, according to a recent report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), a million residents of South Jersey and Pennsylvania narrowly escaped exposure to hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic gas, after a preventable series of explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery. When the explosion took place at 4 am, a control system operator immediately hit a switch to move the deadly hydrofluoric acid into a separate drum out of danger. Three other refinery workers fought flames to shut valves supplying fuel to the fire. The reward for these brave workers, all members of United Steelworkers Local 10-1? They lost their jobs, along with over 1,000 others. We’re lucky this disaster did not cause any loss of life. But it’s inexcusable that so many residents were put at risk and so many workers lost their livelihoods due to apparent negligence by company executives — who paid themselves $4.5 million in bonuses just two weeks after the incident. Read the full opinion-editorial piece in the South Jersey Times by Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC Executive Director here. [...]
The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a factual update on the June 21 explosion and fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) Refinery in Philadelphia. The update notes that a pipe elbow, which had corroded to about half the thickness of a credit card, appears to have ruptured in the refinery’s alkylation unit, releasing process fluid that included over 5,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid, or HF. The leaking process fluid formed a large ground-hugging vapor cloud which ignited, causing a massive fire and explosions. Five workers were injured. Thanks to the heroic actions of four employees, Barbara McHugh, Sal Diberardo, Dave Farrell and Sean McElhinney - members of the United Steelworkers (USW) - thisa massive explosion on June 21st at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) Refiner in Philadelphia did not turn into a deadly catastrophe. McHugh a control room activated the rapid Acid Deinventory system which dumped HF into a drum away from the fire while Farell, McElhinney and Diberado shut down valves to stop fuel to the fire under firey conditions. All four workers were honored at a ceremony on September 8 by the Philadelphia Firefighters. "McHugh's actions prevented a much larger and potentially catastrophic release of HF. [...]
This week marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. We all remember the fear and anxiety that gripped communities as we faced winds up to 90 miles an hour and sea levels 14 feet higher than normal. The storm claimed hundreds of lives and cost tens of billions of dollars in New Jersey, New York and up and down the East Coast. Health-related costs in New York and New Jersey alone were more than $3 billion. Is New Jersey ready for the next Sandy? The oil and chemical industries are important to the New Jersey economy. But we must not lose sight of the health and safety of workers in those industries, or the well-being of residents in surrounding communities. No one knows when the next storm might hit, when flood waters might rise, or when extreme heat might cause a disaster we can’t foresee. That’s why it’s more important than ever that industries that handle hazardous substances operate with full transparency and take steps to prepare for emergencies. Read the full Opinion-Editorial in The Star Ledger from Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC, Executive Director here.
A house in New Jersey destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. This coming October 29th will mark the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. We can all remember the fear and anxiety that gripped communities as we faced winds up to 90 miles an hour and sea levels 14 feet higher than normal. The storm claimed hundreds of lives and cost tens of billions of dollars in New Jersey, New York and up and down the East Coast. Health-related costs in New York and New Jersey alone were more than $3 billion. New Jersey is one of the fastest-warming states in the United States according to a recent analysis in the Washington Post. Temperatures here have increased by a full two degrees Celsius over the past century. That’s more than twice as fast as average in the lower 48 states – and the tipping point at which scientists say the impact of climate change becomes irreversible. Is New Jersey ready for the next Sandy? Our state faces an increased risk of hurricanes and other extreme weather events due to the dynamics of ongoing climate change. Storms that used to happen once in a century will become commonplace, and we also face [...]
The warehouse sector that supports the multibillion dollar e-commerce economy is booming. New Jersey shouldn’t give tax breaks to corporations that exploit the warehouse workers who make it happen. There are major problems with our state’s controversial tax incentive program, administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Over the past year, alarming reports of a lack of oversight and a tangled mess of corporate cronyism at the NJEDA have become a symbol for economic and political dysfunction in New Jersey. NJEDA reform must focus on the quality of jobs we incentivize with our limited taxpayer resources – a topic largely missing from the tax incentive debate. Read the full Opinion-Editorial on NJ.com from the Star-Ledger by Alberto Arroyo is the International vice president of Workers United, SEIU. Brandon Castro is the campaign organizer for NJ Work Environment Council.
TRENTON– Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) today joined transit advocates and environmentalists in urging New Jersey Transit to expedite conversion to an electric bus fleet. “Cutting vehicle emissions is critical to the fight against climate change,” said Senator Weinberg. “NJ Transit should be in the forefront of the conversion to a zero-emission electric bus fleet that is a priority for forward-looking mass transit agencies across the country.” Senator Weinberg issued her statement in the wake of a press conference that brought together experts from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Clean Water Action, Environment New Jersey, ChargEVC, the League of Conservation Voters and the New Jersey Work Environment Council to urge NJ Transit to make electrification of its bus fleet a top priority. Read more from InsiderNJ.com.
Floors emitting mercury vapor have now been found in several school districts in New Jersey. Schools have been using rubber-like polyurethane floors since the 1960s. Some of these floors, installed as late as 2006, contain phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA), a catalyst that releases odorless, colorless mercury vapor. Any item that has been in contact with these contaminated floors emits harmful mercury vapor indefinitely. Recently, several New Jersey schools have had to confront concerned parents and staff members regarding these toxic floors, as well as the exorbitant cost to remove and remediate them. One such stand-out parent is Colette Staab of Washington Township who has mobilized fellow parents to get engaged and to stay informed by attending local school board meetings and pushing for greater transparency. Read the full opinion-editorial on NJ.com from the Star-Ledger by Heather Sorge, Healthy Schools Now organizer for the NJ Work Environment Council and Trisha Sheehan is the national field manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Healthy Schools Now
Gym floor and school track manufacturers for schools will face tighter regulations, after the discovery of mercury-tainted fumes closed gymnasiums in districts across the state This month, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority reported it would, for the first time, require certification from rubberized or urethane floors floor manufacturers that their products do not contain mercury. The mercury fumes are given off by certain rubberized or synthetic polyurethane flooring that contain the chemical phenyl mercuric acetate, known as PMA. The chemical, found in gym, cafeteria and multipurpose room floors, as well as indoor and outdoor running tracks, has been used in floors since the 1960s, according to the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union. The chemical breaks down over time and emits mercury fumes, according to the union. The chemical is not found in gym floors made of wood or vinyl tile, according to the NJEA. Read more at app.com
It's unclear exactly how many school gymnasium floors in New Jersey have the potential to emit toxic mercury vapor over time, or are already doing so. But the state can be sure of one thing now: no future Schools Development Authority projects will include floors that contain a mercury catalyst, which can lead to harmful effects on humans and has already been recognized in several New Jersey instances. The SDA, which funds and manages construction and renovation of schools in 31 New Jersey districts, announced it will be requiring an additional certification from manufacturers of rubberized and/or urethane floors that can guarantee the product is free of any mercury catalyst during manufacturing and installation. Read more at nj1015.com.
Press Release For Immediate Release: July 3, 2019 Contact: Heather L. Sorge, NJ Work Environment Council, Campaign Organizer for Healthy Schools Now 908/310-7874; firstname.lastname@example.org Debra Coyle McFadden, NJ Work Environment Council, Executive Director 609/707-1320; email@example.com New Jersey Schools Development Authority Takes Action to Protect Kids from Mercury Found in Floors The New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) will be requiring a certification from manufacturers of rubberized and/or urethane floors installed on SDA projects ensuring the floor does not contain phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA) or other mercury catalysts. These floors, which continue to be identified in New Jersey schools, have been installed since the 1960s. This flooring, and items that have been in contact with it, emit harmful mercury vapor indefinitely. Mercury vapor can damage the central nervous system, kidneys, lungs, skin and eyes and is especially harmful to young children and fetuses whose bodies are still developing. Studies show that children with autism have an even harder time excreting toxic metals, further increasing the health risk. The additional certification from manufacturers is necessary as Safety Data Sheets and date of installation are not determining factors in identifying whether or not a floor contains mercury. The floors release odorless, colorless mercury vapor. The only reliable way to determine whether [...]