December 13, 2011

In his Dec. 1 letter “A congressman’s legislative overreach,” which criticized federal legislation introduced by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) to shut down petroleum tank farms that endanger residential neighborhoods, John J. Kohout III turned a blind eye to the safety and health concerns faced by families living in the shadow of such facilities, not only in Fairfax City but near any unsafe tank farm in the country.

As a resident of Mantua, a Fairfax County neighborhood that has been forced to cope with the serious effects of oil spills from the nearby Pickett Road Fuel Tank Farm for more than 40 years, I applaud Mr. Connolly’s efforts to put some teeth into federal regulations meant to protect residents and hold tank farms accountable.

My firsthand experience in dealing with oil spills contradicts the claim by Mr. Kohout that “existing environmental laws and regulations amply govern the handling of petroleum products.” It’s easy to decry “overregulation” from afar. It’s a different matter when one must cope with the impact of such toxic chemicals threatening our community. I invite anyone who doubts this to talk to my neighbors and me about the noxious odors that emanated from a creek just 200 feet from my house and that were caused by spills from the Pickett Road Fuel Tank Farm.

Using a constitutional argument, as Mr. Kohout does, to divert attention from holding accountable those who violate our right to live free from hazardous spills mocks the Founding Fathers’s intent to protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Irvin Varkonyi, Fairfax