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Study: All North Texas Students At Chemical Disaster Risk

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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - A new study by the Center for Effective Government found every single student in Dallas and Rockwall Counties is at risk of exposure to chemical disaster.

The Washington, D.C. based non-profit calls it a major threat to our children, that went unnoticed until the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.

The Center for Effective Government examined more than 3,400 facilities across the U.S. that use hazardous chemicals. The facilities were ranked, in part, based on the types of chemicals used, local population, and number of schools within the facility's so-called 'vulnerability zone.'

Combined, the danger zones of numerous facilities cover North Texas.

♦♦♦ Click Here To Find Out The Danger Zone For Your School ♦♦♦

Nimitz High School in Irving, sits just a short drive away from one of the facilities in the study -- the Central Regional Wastewater System.

Central Regional Wastewater System ranked second in the study for risk to students. More than 1,200 schools and 766,000 students are within the vulnerability zone that stretches 25 miles out from the facility.

"It would be a concern for me, and my family of course, especially having little children," said Francisco Zuniga, who has a 7-year-old daughter.

In response to questions posed by CBS 11 News Irving ISD spokesperson Lesley Weaver sent the following statement:

Should there be a toxic release of materials that presents a clear and present danger to our students, we will take the following basic actions in accordance with our Multihazard Emergency Operations Plan:

  1. Call 9-1-1 to secure assistance of the Irving fire and police department
  2. Evacuate to a site safely removed from the prevailing wind pattern of the toxic materials (if time permits as assessed by the fire department); or,
  3. Shelter-in-place, wherein we would take the following actions:
    a.       Shut down the HVAC system and close off exterior ventilation sources;
    b.      Close all exterior doors and windows;
    c.       Place students and staff in a sealed environment; and
    d.      Monitor radios for additional information.
  4. Estimate the extent of injuries or potential physical danger.
  5. Provide for emergency triage medical care.
  6. Inform school staff of current conditions.
  7. Through the communications department, notify parents of current conditions with an expectation of how a parent/student reunification plan will take place.
  8. Depending on the nature of the event, plan for continuity of operations relative to how students will continue to be educated over the following days.

We conduct annual training for students and staff via shelter drills and tabletop exercises to ensure preparedness for such an exigency.

Environmental activist Luis Sepulveda, of the West Dallas Coalition for Environmental Justice, says the study backs up the concerns his organization has had for years. He says families need to be familiar with what's beyond their backyards. "They need to go by and see what type of chemicals, and do they have some type of emergency evacuation in the community."

A spokesperson for the Trinity River Authority of Texas, of which Central Regional Wastewater is a part, says plans are in place to meet concerns. They sent the following statement to CBS:

"We have plans in place. We are confident in those plans. The facility routinely goes through steps to make sure equipment, personnel and procedures are taken care of and up to date. We actively and routinely evaluate changes that could reduce or eliminate the use of some chemicals. The staff members at the location are involved in the plans that are in place so that they understand their role and the actions that might need to be taken."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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