Anne Arundel County has at least 79 facilities that handle chemicals so dangerous they could kill or injure thousands of people if there were a major leak or fire, according to county records.

The facilities include manufacturers, warehouses, retail businesses and public facilities that store, use or manufacture chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency has put on an "extremely hazardous" list. Most of Anne Arundel's riskiest facilities are in the Curtis Bay, Glen Burnie and Baltimore-Washington International Airport areas.

The list was developed as part of a program to help local governments identify chemical risks in their communities and to work with the facilities to lower the chances of a catastrophe. Local governments' hazardous materials response plans are public records, and The Washington Post reviewed them to determine the number of high-risk facilities in the region and whether government officials are prepared for a disaster.

According to Anne Arundel's Emergency Response Plan, "some facilities are not in compliance with reporting requirements," which means that those on the list don't always keep officials informed of what chemicals they are using.

Anne Arundel's plan, like many in the D.C. area, isn't up to date either. The plan lists a Reichold Chemicals manufacturing plant on Chemical Road near Baltimore as a facility that would threaten 100,000 Anne Arundel residents if there were a leak or other accident. But the plant has been closed for two years, a company official said.

In all, there are 607 such facilities in the D.C. area; Anne Arundel's 79 plants rank third after Montgomery County's 177 sites and the 86 sites in Prince George's County. With 65, Fairfax County has the most such sites in Northern Virginia. The plants store and use materials such as chlorine, sulfuric acid and ammonia, all of which can be fatal even in small amounts. Comparisons are hard to make, because some counties have more industry than others, and Montgomery has a stricter standard for reporting that boosts its overall total.

"The likelihood of a hazardous materials accident has greatly increased because of the increase in everyday use of hazardous materials as well as the movement of materials by all types of transportation, and the increase in population in the county," the county's response plan says.

Anne Arundel residents, especially in the county's northern half, also are vulnerable to a chemical accident that could occur in south Baltimore. A year ago, an explosion at a Condea Vista plant that produces detergent ingredients injured eight people, closed an interstate highway and sent up thick black clouds of smoke.

"Anything can happen," said Keith Schrader, 66, who lives in the Brooklyn Heights section of the county near south Baltimore's industrial area. "I could worry about it, but it wouldn't help me a bit. I don't have a bomb shelter."

County officials say they are prepared to handle most serious incidents, although they acknowledge that outside expertise may be needed for some types of leaks. Responders first on the scene don't always know right away what chemicals they're dealing with, and during a catastrophic event chemicals can become mixed.

In addition to the risk posed by the permanent facilities, county residents also face the threat of a random accident involving hazardous materials being moved on Anne Arundel's major highways and CSX and Amtrak railroad tracks. These include Interstates 695 and 97, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, U.S. Routes 50 and 301 and eight state routes. Hundreds of trucks carrying dangerous cargo travel on those roads every day, and "increased traffic increases the potential for an accident to occur," the county's plan says.

For more on the region's chemical threat, visit The Post on the Web at www.washingtonpost.com/metro

Hazardous Chemicals in Anne Arundel

Federal law requires local governments to maintain a list of facilities that store or use dangerous chemicals. Each jurisdiction must identify hazardous substances, analyze the risk these substances could pose to the surrounding community and develop emergency response plans in the case of a spill or accident. The map below shows facilities within the county that have reported dangerous chemicals.

AMMONIA

Anne Arundel County, Bureau of Engineering, Drafting

Kanasco Ltd.

Kop-Flex Inc.

Southern States

SULFURIC ACID

AGFA -- Division of Bayer Corp.

AT&T (2 locations)

Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (2 locations)

C&P Telephone (6 locations)

Cellular One Mobile

Glen-Gery Corp.

International Paper Decorative Products

Mack Trucks Inc. (2 locations)

MCI Telecommunications

Northrop Grumman

Quebec Printing

Union Carbide Linde Division

U.S. Army

U.S. Naval Academy/Naval Station

U.S. Coast Guard

United Stationers Supply Co.

Yoasa Exide Inc.

CHLORINE

Anne Arundel County, Bureau of Utility Operations (31 locations)

Maryland State Dept. of Natural Resources (8 locations)

Northrop Grumman

Provinces Water Company

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

U.S. Naval Academy/Naval Station

Naval Surface Warfare Center

OTHER

AGFA -- Division of Bayer Corp.

Chemetals Inc.

Glen-Gery Corp.

International Paper Decorative Products

Northrop Grumman

Roberts Oxygen Co, Inc. (2 locations)

Schillinger Inc.

SCM Chemicals