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LEPC looks to revamp emergency plan

Cathryn Keefe O’Hare

Members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, meeting for the first time Tuesday afternoon, learned that 110 small companies in Danvers using flammable or hazardous materials do not have the required fire permits.

Also, more than half the town’s 35 companies that are licensed to have on hand more than 10,000 gallons of flammable or hazardous materials also lack the required fire permits, Fire Chief James Tutko told committee.

Those that do not have the fire permit sometimes had one and let it lapse, Tutko said. They may think it’s up to the fire department to notify them, rather than their responsibility to seek the annual permit, he added.

Education, everyone agreed, must be one of the primary goals of the reconstituted LEPC, in addition to a revised emergency response plan, training of emergency personnel and enhanced compliance with state-of-the-art safety procedures.

“Our LEPC will be unique,” said Town Manager Wayne Marquis. “We will go a step further,” he added, and “be a model of the state.”

The “step further” will ensure hazardous materials are not only stored correctly in the amounts for which the company is licensed, but also used properly, Marquis said in his opening remarks to the group.

“Exactly how we will do that is something we will work out over time,” he said, in reference to the lack of state or federal law to allow such oversight.

New laws are pending at the state level, Chief Tutko said, referring to recent legislation filed by Rep. Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers) and supported by the State Fire Chiefs’ Association that would allow fire personnel to ensure that chemical processing is done safely.

Local citizens long ago, however, decided not to leave their fate to others and pressured the town to look more closely at Danvers companies that store, manufacture or sell hazardous or flammable chemicals.

They were responding to the devastation of the November 2006 Danversport explosion at the CAI ink and Arnel paint factory on Water Street, when hundreds of residents were evacuated, homes damaged or destroyed, boats and cars and other personal property obliterated.

Selectmen approved a list of 19 LEPC members at its April 1 meeting, reactivating the old LEPC, which had been allowed to lapse after the Emergency Response Plan in effect the night of Nov. 22, 2006 was put together.

Among the new LEPC members are police, fire, school and public works employees, the town manager and Selectman Dan Bennett. In addition, two Danversport activists joined — Susan Tropeano and David Marcou — and two representatives of Danversport companies that deal with hazardous materials — Calvin Patten of Devcon and James Blake of Eastern Propane. Two other citizens, both with technical expertise, and a media representative, Bella Travaglini, formerly of the Danvers Herald, are members, as are a representative of Beverly Hospital and Lyons Ambulance.

Chief Tutko gave an update of what the fire department has done as part of its own reconstituted review process of companies that use hazardous materials.

Every one of the 35 licensed companies “passed fire safety and housekeeping regulations,” he said but more than half did not have their annual fire permits, Tutko said, also required by law.

In addition, he has begun identifying companies that use less than 10,000 gallons of flammable or hazardous materials and do not need a license, but do need a fire permit. They include car dealerships that have waste oil or companies dealing in “semi-conducting manufacturing.” 

He has identified 110 so far without a permit. There could be many more. The department is entering the information in its computer, which will flag it for an annual inspection in the future. But, right now, the department could use suggestions on how to make the process of gathering the information simpler.