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Nov. 10, 2004

Local Emergency Planning Committee Works Year-Round to Prepare for Chemical Emergencies

Any chemical spill or release of a hazardous substance into the environment can quickly escalate to a public health threat or cause lasting environmental damage. In order to respond efficiently and quickly, emergency responders and citizens must have accurate information about chemicals in the communities where they live and work. With that goal, the federal Emergency

Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 required every county in the country to organize and support a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).

In Oswego County, the LEPC has taken several steps to prepare for an accidental release of hazardous chemicals. The LEPC is a voluntary group of professionals and volunteers from local government, industries, fire, police, emergency medical services, and emergency communications. They play a key role in Oswego County's emergency planning efforts.

The LEPC has five subcommittees that work on chemical awareness projects throughout the year:

The Training and Exercise Subcommittee plans annual exercises for county and city hazardous materials teams and the emergency response community. Following a successful Multiple-Casualty Incident exercise with the Central Square Central School District in June 2003, this subcommittee is planning another full-scale exercise in early 2005.

The Public Education Subcommittee is developing a brochure about the LEPC for distribution to industries and the public, and is creating awareness of LEPC programs through news releases and other projects.

The Plan Review and Revision Subcommittee is responsible for the county's SARA Title III Plan, which outlines county-wide response to chemical emergencies, and the county's Hazardous Materials Incident Response Plan, which details response by county departments. The plans are updated quarterly and reviewed annually.

The Compliance Subcommittee ensures that industries and agencies that are required to report the use and existence of hazardous chemicals in their facilities do so. This subcommittee also is working on a new database of these reports.

The Hazard Analysis and Risk Reduction Subcommittee coordinates with local industries in developing the LEPC's risk analyses.

The LEPC's 2004-2005 officers include Robert T. Sponable, lieutenant with the Fulton Fire Department, as chair; John Kaminski of Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station Emergency Planning, vice-chair; Jay Rogers of Entergy Emergency Planning, secretary; and Bill Denery, retired county fire coordinator and a volunteer, treasurer.

Other industry representatives serving on the LEPC include: Thomas Brown, Alcan Corporation; Bruce DeVinney and Dave DeAngelo, Metropolitan Water Board; Marion Greenhalgh, NRG; Ed Vivlemore, Interface Solutions, Inc.; Chris Huxtable, Huhtamaki; and Michael Richards, Sistine Callen, International Foods/Birdseye.

Others serving on the LEPC include: Oswego County Chairman of the Legislature Russ Johnson; Jim Bushey, designated by Oswego Mayor John Gosek; Fulton Mayor Daryl Hayden; County Emergency Management Office Director Patricia Egan; County Fire Coordinator John Hinds; Deputy Fire Coordinator for Special Operations Al Heath; Oswego Fire Chief Edward Geers; Fulton Fire Chief Anthony Gorea and Assistant Chief Dana Smith; County Undersheriff Robert Lighthall; New York State Police Sgt. Thomas Rogers; Randi Driesen and Evan Walsh, County Health Department; Janet Clerkin, County Public Information Office; Paul Vandish, Oswego Hospital; Cathy Hogan, Mark Rozyczko, and Pam Wellman of A.L. Lee Memorial Hospital; John Darling, Brien Mathews and Fred Koch, Oswego County RACES; Sue Weatherstone, Cayuga Community College; Len Edinger and Gary Mashaw of Oswego County Opportunities Transportation; Elizabeth Christensen, WRVO; Allison Trudell, Oswego County Weeklies; Ed Kaish and John Wassell, Onondaga-Oswego Chapter American Red Cross; Terry Bennett, County Emergency Management Office; Charles Wright and Greg Firenze, State Emergency Management Office Region IV.

The LEPC meets as a full committee four times a year. The next meeting of the LEPC is at 8 a.m. Dec. 9 at the Oswego County Emergency Management Office, 200 N. Second St., Fulton. Meetings are open to the public. For more information, interested citizens can call the Emergency Management Office at 591-9150.

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