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EPA urged to improve industrial "hazmat" disclosures

Firefighters and other first responders to emergencies say more knowledge about the hazardous materials awaiting them at a fire scene will benefit not only their crews but also the nearby public.   Leaders from the first responder community  joined Senator Charles Schumer at Erie County's Emergency Services Training and Operations Center in Cheektowaga, where they called on the Environmental Protection Agency to streamline its system under which industries report the potentially dangerous materials they house.

Part of the problem, says Senator Schumer, is a reporting system that even the EPA admits is complicated, involving multiple forms.

"According to first responders like those here today, the reporting does not happen accurately or fully," said Senator Schumer. "Because of that the men and women, who have gone to quickly pull up a facility's most recent online form when an alarm sounds at the industrial plant, all too often find it out of date or even unavailable."

Schumer noted two Buffalo industrial fires that happened last year ... at Goldman Titanium and at Niagara Lubricants.  Both companies fully cooperated with firefighters and the EPA after their respective fires, but Schumer says having a better reporting system would benefit firefighters before they arrive at future industrial fire scenes.  In his words, what happened last year was like placing a blindfold over the eyes of first responders.

Local emergency response leaders say having better prior knowledge not only helps their firefighters but also the nearby residents whose safety may be jeopardized by the contents inside a burning facility.

"You know, the City of Buffalo and its contiguous communities was recently cited as one of the best-prepared communities in America," said Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield.  "What it specifically cited was the way we work together as partners.  Having a clear relationship with the EPA and others will help us to not only maintain that level of preparedness but also to increase it."


Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.