Major security lapses exposed on Mid-South waterways - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: Alisa Nave, 11/8/04, 10:00pm

Major security lapses exposed on Mid-South waterways

By: Aaron Diamant

When it comes to securing the Mid-South's 300 plus miles of shoreline; it seems the name of the game is "Do the best with what you got." "Do we have the resources to identify everybody every time, every place they're going? No we don't,” said Commander David Stalfort with U.S. Coast Guard. That may be why nobody stopped us the days we spent on the Mississippi testing security measures at riverfront chemical plants, power plants, and refineries on President's Island. Or why no one stopped us while we cased and photographed the highway and rail bridges over the river some of the most likely terrorist targets in the area. Local homeland security experts had this to say "Just because someone did not stop you doesn't mean that they weren't watching you,” said Randall Roby with Homeland Security. However is simply watching enough? We showed a tape of our security test to the head of the Memphis and Shelby County Local Emergency Planning Committee. "We shouldn't have been able to do that. Us or anybody; I'd have to agree with that,” said Butch Pennington with the Local Emergency Planning Committee. The L-E-P-C is made up of local companies including some of the ones that manufacture, store, or transport hazardous chemicals on President's Island . The Federal Government told those riverfront facilities they needed to have security plans in place to keep unauthorized people out by the end of 2003. "It is a big challenge. We know that there are things that we need to improve on. We are working collectively to make improvements. But obviously by what you showed me we have some more work to do." Case and point, since the December deadline the Coast Guard has inspected all 58 facilities in the Mid-South federally mandated to keep security plans. It shut down seven for not meeting requirements. Four fixed the problems and re-opened, but the other three remain closed. The Coast Guard says for security reasons, they can't tell us which ones. "Can we get better? Yes. And we're doing that all the time." Still, our boat pulled right up to several facilities' river operations, unguarded barges and bridges and hung around seemingly unnoticed for hours. All day long not a word from the Coast Guard or the Memphis Police Department. "I'm surprised that they haven't reported it if you actually got onto their properties,” said Captain Troy Daniel with MPD Harbor Patrol. The only company that seemed to notice was the Burlington Northern Railroad who saw us photographing the bridges and sent the Railroad Police to question us hours later when we returned to the dock. It was the only hint of security we saw during our day on the river. So it would appear at least the Railroads were on the ball. But coming up later this month in another Target Five investigation, find out just how on the ball these railroads were when it comes to securing their own back yards.

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