A recently released report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office said that federal authorities should take steps to verify information reported by chemical facilities and improve compliance with safety standards.
The GAO report analyzed the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, which was enacted in 2007 in response to potential terrorist threats against the nation's chemical plants. The Department of Homeland Security's Infrastructure Security Compliance Division collected data on some 37,000 facilities and identified 2,900 that present a high risk for a release of toxic chemicals.
The report, however, said that DHS officials relied on self-reported data and did not verify that information. The GAO estimated, for example, that of the 6,400 facilities with some degree of toxic release threat, 2,700 — or 44 percent — incorrectly reported nearby areas that could be vulnerable to short-term chemical exposure.
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"By verifying that the data ISCD used in its risk assessment are accurate, ISCD could better ensure it has identified the nation’s high-risk chemical facilities," the analysis said.
In addition, the report noted that ISCD did not put procedures in place for facilities that are not in compliance with their agency-approved security plans. Inspectors reviewed 69 facilities as of February, but 34 did not yet meet one or more deadlines for implementing security measures.
"Given that ISCD will need to inspect about 2,900 facilities in the future, having documented processes and procedures could provide ISCD more reasonable assurance that facilities implement planned measures and address security gaps," the report said.
GAO officials said that DHS agreed with the recommendations and outlined steps to address them.