Sunday, May 23, 1999

Hazards get a new approach

Warren County reorganizing

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A boom in residential and industrial growth has put the Warren County Hazardous Materials Response Team on a mission to boost manpower and improve its operation.

        A month into his new job as the county's environmental hazards coordinator, Paul Deane is trying to reorganize and expand the hazmat unit that must be prepared to assess, contain and clean up hazardous spills.

        The team, now composed of 15 specially trained firefighters from five departments, will take on 10 more members and pool equipment and expertise from the county's 11 fire departments, Mr. Deane said.

        “It will get people there that will be able to stop and contain a leak much quicker. It will get the company back into making money again. It will get the highways open much quicker,” Mr. Deane said.

        The retired Cincinnati firefighter and recent hazmat instructor for the International Association of Firefighters was hired last month after fire chiefs lobbied the county to take control of hazmat.

        The county's hazmat unit had been run by Lebanon Chief Michael Hannigan under the auspices of the Warren County Fire Chiefs Association.

        The job, which includes keeping track of industrial chemicals stored and used by companies in the county, just became too much, fire officials said.

        “Chief Hannigan has done the best he could with the resources he had. But it's extremely difficult to handle a separate division when you're already trying to run a whole department,” said Chief Bernie Becker, of Clearcreek Fire District.

        Although the countywide team responds to an average of 10 runs a year, the communications center logged 227 hazardous material calls in 1998. Already 97 calls were received this year through mid-May, said Frank Young, director of emergen cy services.

        Many are incidents that local fire departments can handle, such as small diesel fuel spills or ruptured gas lines, said Frank Young, Warren County emergency services director.

        But the potential for more serious incidents increases with each company that opens, Mr. Deane said. Latest figures from the Ohio Department of Development show that 353 new businesses opened in Warren County in 1997. “Just by bringing more industry in here, you are bringing more of the hazardous materials,” he said.

        “We never know completely what rolls up and down the interstates, but we will be much more prepared when an incident happens,” he said.


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