Plants remain vigilant

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 20, 2002


HAHNVILLE – Industrial security remains a top priority at major plants in St. Charles Parish, despite the passing of several months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, according to the plants’ spokespeople.

Waterford 3 nuclear power plant in Taft has had National Guardsmen stationed at the plant during the past two months, by direct order of Gov. Mike Foster.

In addition, since 9/11, security clamped down, with all traffic now funneled through one gate, guarded by security guards armed with both an AR-15 automatic rifle and a 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

Waterford spokesman Michael Duhe said, “We’re still in a state of heightened alert, at the recommendation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

The aforementioned directive went out to all 103 nuclear power plants across the country. Three gates were funneled down to one gate and all guards are well-trained and well-armed, authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, to prevent unauthorized entry.

Waterford 3 is especially sensitive to such a threat. Last spring, a chemical truck driver with a history of mental instability climbed a fence at the plant.

“He took three steps and our guards were on him,” Duhe said.

United Parcel Service driver Tony Armato, who is challenged at the gate on a regular basis, commented, “It just slows me down.”

At Monsanto’s chemical plant in Luling, loss prevention supervisor Michael Guillory said, “We’ve maintained the same security level; we’ve not downgraded at all.”

On the other hand, the U.S. Coast Guard presence, which coordinated with Monsanto security on the Mississippi River levee, has downgraded considerably.

“There’s not as much Coast Guard on the levee as we saw after 9/11,” he said.

There are only two ways into the plant itself, and the guards are trained in an electronic badge system for plant admittance. In addition, a physical search of any vehicle, incoming and outgoing, is done. All contract employees undergo a drug test, use a badge system and even a felony background check prior to admittance to the plant. Delivery drivers are pre-cleared, and one of the main gates is now closed at nights and during weekends and holidays.

Roving guards utilize a computer-generated route for every round, selected at random so his movements cannot be anticipated.

Special tags are now on outgoing rail cars, especially those with chlorine, to show valves have not been tampered with and, Guillory continued, anyone hopping a fence would not get far without being challenged.

Joy Patin, speaking for Orion Refinery near Norco, said, “Things here have not eased back at all.” The plant instead used 9/11 as “an opportunity to put in additional security measures.”

Numerous gates used for routine admittance have been closed, and there is constant communication with their port facilities and with the U.S. Coast Guard. “These are better, more improved procedures.”

Lilly Galland of Motiva in Norco refused to elaborate about changes to security measures at the refinery, but at 6 p.m., the main gate is closed every evening and retains a guard on post all night.

Galland said, “Nothing’s changed as far as security,” besides the closing of Wesco Road.