Concerned that hazardous materials are being shipped through Orange County without the knowledge of local officials, Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder is pushing for a re-examination of local and federal rules.
Wieder has asked her four fellow supervisors to join with her in signing a letter to the county's congressional delegation on the issue.
"I was deeply concerned to learn that lethal chemicals are routinely trucked through Orange County without the knowledge of local government officials," Wieder wrote in a draft letter to the congressmen that will be presented to supervisors at their meeting Tuesday.
"While I realize that the transportation of these chemicals is important to our economy and our national defense, it is imperative that local officials are made aware of these shipments and involved in coordinated planning to protect public safety in the event of an accident."
Wieder's concern follows a story in The Times Sunday reporting that liquid cryogenic fluorine, a potentially lethal chemical used in laser research, has been shipped over the Riverside, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and San Diego freeways to reach a TRW laboratory in San Clemente.
Special trucks handle the chemical and have a good nine-year safety record, but a spill of the material could require the immediate evacuation of everyone within a 3.9-mile radius.
Wieder's draft letter says that several congressmen have criticized the Department of Transportation's policies on transporting hazardous materials. The department can issue guidelines on such shipments to local governments and chemical transporters, but has not done so, she said.
"No national data bank exists on the amount of chemicals being shipped and the routes they take," Wieder wrote. "Local police and fire departments are not always advised on the danger in their community and the proper response to chemical spills.
"I strongly urge you to take a leadership role in protecting the citizens of Orange County on this issue," the letter added. "Local governments need to know if these criticisms are valid and if the 1975 Hazardous Materials Act is being adequately enforced."
In addition, Wieder is asking the Board of Supervisors to order the county's own Hazardous Materials Program Office to investigate current regulations and enforcement of rules on transporting hazardous materials through the county and to return with their findings in 30 days.
She also suggested that the hazardous-materials office submit a statement expressing the county's concerns to a congressional subcommittee investigating the subject.