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Security for Hazardous Waste Transport Beefed Up

October 04, 2001
By: Nicholas Rummell
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Inspections for the transport of hazardous materials are being stepped up this week, said state officials.

A spokesman for Missouri's hazardous waste management commission stated that a special investigation of the security of trucks transporting hazardous waste, as well as background checks on truckers, is now under way.

Connie Patterson said that any "red flags" that were discovered during this inspection would be reported to the U.S. Transportation Department.

Red flags for further inspection, according to Patterson, would be expired trucking licenses, employee history, and tampering marks on vehicles. Employees without U.S. citizenship would also be investigated.

"Due to recent concerns, this has become a priority for us," said Patterson. "We are looking at everything as a possibility and taking the necessary precautions."

Waste oil, industrial solvents, and PCBs -- a toxic industrial byproduct -- are among the waste materials that are transported in Missouri.

Patterson said that these materials could pose long-term health and environmental threats in the hands of the wrong person, but did not speculate as to the likelihood of a terrorist threat involving waste materials.

Of the thirty trucking terminals inspected so far, none have yielded any red flags, said Patterson.

Trucks carrying hazardous waste have been under scrutiny by highway patrol since last week, but no attempts to set up checkpoints or divert dangerous payload from highly populated areas.

Capt. Chris Ricks of the Missouri State Highway Patrol stated that there would be no real way to divert hazardous materials away from major cities, such as St. Louis, because such materials are transported through regular truck lines.

"We are spending more time and being more careful [on safety checks]," said Ricks.

Following the lifted ban on radioactive waste shipping last week, the U.S. Department of Energy is now conducting security precautions of thier own and is considered on heightened alert.

A department spokesman refrained to state what types of security measures are under way, but said that the DOE is "continuing with business as usual."