While the Center for Progressive Reform staff advocate for stronger protections from toxic chemical spills, none of our experts assumed that one of our own would gain firsthand experience on the matter.
That all changed last January, when Board Member and Scholar Sid Shapiro received a surprise midnight phone call warning him that a nearby fertilizer plant in Winston-Salem, N.C., had just caught fire. Inside the plant and stored in a tank outside were 500 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, threatening to incinerate nearby communities.
In the In Our Backyard Podcast, hosted by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Shapiro, David Flores, a former senior policy analyst at the Center, and Senior Policy Analyst Darya Minovi shared their perspectives on the Winston-Salem incident and what it means for communities at risk of chemical spills, which are disproportionately low-wealth communities of color. They explored the health safety risks involved and the role of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations in preventing disasters like this in the future.
Flores kicked off the series in episode five by describing the causes of the event. The plant had not met modern fire code regulations — having been grandfathered into the newest code …