- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2007

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Chemical plants are being warned not to divulge security and safety procedures to a caller claiming to be conducting a survey for an industry trade group. The caller gave a false phone number and the group is not conducting a survey.

At least three such calls were made this month to plants in the Midwest, but no information was divulged, according to the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), an industry group based in New York that sent an alert.

“There is concern, in light of recent terrorist activity, that this may be an attempt to determine security vulnerabilities in the chemical process,” said the letter sent Tuesday to 31,000 members of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the parent group of CCPS.

The calls raised concern in New Jersey, which has many chemical plants, said Elvin Montero, a spokesman for the Chemistry Council of New Jersey.

“It’s taken seriously. Companies know the procedures to take,” Mr. Montero said yesterday. “Companies do not discuss their process safety or security measures over the phone, especially to someone they don’t know.”

Mr. Montero declined to speculate on why such calls were made, but said the FBI and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness were informed.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington said the agency is aware of the report and is looking into it. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Russ Knocke, said the matter had not yet been brought to his agency.

The bogus calls to chemical plants were reported in yesterday’s editions of the Record of Bergen County.

The caller claimed to be from the CCPS, and said it was conducting a survey. Scott Berger, director of the center, told the newspaper it is not conducting such a survey.

The chemical plants tried to track the calls, but were led to disconnected or nonexistent numbers, Mr. Berger said. He declined to identify the companies that received the calls.

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