The amount of deadly chemicals moving through Mississippi on any given day is mind boggling.
Thousands of big trucks and nearly every train carry some form of hazardous chemicals. Every day more than 800,000 trucks move hazardous materials across the nation and more than 80% of all trains carry dangerous substances.
"There is a tremendous amount that goes through the state of Mississippi and Jackson, Mississippi everyday," said former Jackson/HInds Emergency Operations Center Director Larry Fisher.
There are about 1,000 different chemicals that are considered hazardous and can cause at least illness and at worst death. Last year in Mississippi more than 100 spills were reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation..an average of one about every third day.
"Hazardous material is as simple as hair spray or perfume or fertilizer for farmers. That's hazardous material. It's gasoline or diesel that is transported un and down the highway everyday," Mississippi Department of Transportation Enforcement Director Wille Huff said.
Fisher has responded to hundreds of chemical spills. "If one of those tank cars were to rupture, a five or six mile diameter around this area for immediate evacuation and of course, that immediate evacuation would still take some time," said Fisher.
Placards are required on any shipment of hazardous items either by truck or rail. They make identifying the chemical on-board easier for emergency responders. Emergency responders carry a response guidebook that helps them to know how to deal with the material.
Even if there is no spillage in a crash, often there is an issue off-loading the hazardous material. United States Environmental Services in Byram is one of a few companies in the country with the capability to transfer highly toxic chemicals.
"It can really get bad when you have something that's a poison, a corrosive and flammable. There's products that have all three characteristics," said US Environmental Services COO George Malvaney.
The use of hazardous materials to make everyday goods means the transportation of these dangerous chemicals through highly populated areas will not stop. However, increased regulations and safety precautions have greatly reduced the threat to public health and safety.
Last year, there were nearly 15,000 hazardous spills in the United States with damages of more than $110,000,000.
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