Chemicals in the Community

Hazardous Materials Transportation Risks
Periodically the Harford County Local Emergency Planning Committee will conduct a commodity flow survey of the hazardous materials that are transported through Harford County by highway, pipeline and railway. The risks of a chemical accident are higher when the substance is not in a secure stationary facility. Harford County has 2 pipeline transport systems that cross the county, Colonial Pipeline transports petroleum and Columbia Pipeline transports natural gas. I-95 is a major highway where tons of hazardous materials are transported daily. Another major transport for hazardous materials is Route 1. CSX and Conrail both transport hazardous materials into the county on a daily basis.

Survey Process
When a commodity flow survey is done, the 1st step is to request information from the railroads and pipelines regarding their traffic amounts and materials. In concern for public safety against a terrorist or criminal act, these reports are released only to public safety officials.

The next step is a placard count. Highway vehicles transporting over certain amounts of hazardous materials must be placarded with a warning symbol and a code that tells emergency responders what the vehicle is carrying. During a placard count members of the Harford County Hazardous Materials Response Team pick specific high traffic areas and count the placarded trucks. The codes are recorded and then later analyzed to determine what risks are involved with transportation. The results are always educational and assist emergency responders in proper planning for a transportation emergency.

When a Chemical is a Hazardous Material
The Occupational, Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) identifies how a chemical becomes classified as hazardous. Any chemical that creates a health hazard to humans of any kind is classified as hazardous. Health hazards can be from immediate contact with the material or through long exposure to the substance. Chemicals that burn, explode, or can start burning by themselves are classified as hazardous. Also classified as hazardous are chemicals that react with air, water, or other chemicals to form heat or toxic gases.

Chemical Storage
The way chemicals are stored can also classify them as hazardous. Gases that are stored under high pressure, such as oxygen, are not an immediate threat to anyone. But if the container is ruptured, damaged, or involved in a fire the container can become a deadly missile or an explosion hazard. Some chemicals are stored at very high temperatures and others can be stored in cryogenic or very cold temperatures. With those storage methods the risk of burns, fires and even frostbite are present if there is an accident.

Extremely Hazardous Substances
Some chemicals are more dangerous to human health and the environment if there is a release. These chemicals are known as Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS). When a chemical is classified as an EHS it has higher toxic or damaging effect and is regulated in smaller quantities. Examples of EHS are chlorine and ammonia. When used properly and in a safe manner these products can be used safely in industry and homes every day. During an accident or unplanned release, these chemicals can do extensive damage to human health and the environment. That is why these chemicals have special reporting requirements and facilities that maintain them have special responsibilities.