The now-notorious Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant is not far from my home, so reading that mismanagement there had the potential to "create a poisonous plume more than 30 miles long" [front page, Nov. 5] made my hair curl. I was somewhat heartened to read that urgent repairs were beginning [front page, Nov. 6] and that a D.C. Water and Sewer Authority report did not cite an immediate threat [front page, Nov. 17]. But that is only part of the story.
In 1986 Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which made citizens partners with government, business and community leaders, and environmental and other public-interest organizations in preparing for emergencies and managing chemical risks.
Under this law, users and makers of hazardous chemicals must report accidental releases and provide information to the public about the amounts, location and potential effects of those chemicals. Facilities must report this information to the local emergency planning committee, the state emergency response commission and local fire departments. These agencies in turn must make the information available to the public.
In 1990 Congress bolstered this law by amending the Clean Air Act to require companies to develop a risk-management program and give the public information about the "worst-case scenarios" that could occur at any given site. The Environmental Protection Agency was charged with collecting and reporting information on accidental releases and their potential effect on nearby communities.
The EPA was about to make this information available on the Web when Congress recently passed the Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act, which forbids dissemination of "worst-case scenarios" on the Internet. The rationale for this prohibition is that such information could be used by terrorists.
I am concerned about possible terrorism, but I also live in a city in which trash pickup, recycling and street repairs are a challenge, and that makes me nervous about the ability of this same city to keep me safe from toxic chemicals.
CARL T. CAMERON