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The remains of a fertilizer plant burn after an explosion at the plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas early April 18, 2013. The deadly explosion ripped through the fertilizer plant late on Wednesday, injuring more than 100 people, leveling dozens o
A year after a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, killed 14 and destroyed a good chunk of the town, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released preliminary findings from an investigation that should serve as a major wake-up call for how the United States—and Texas in particular—regulates dangerous chemicals:
Tiny white pellets of ammonium nitrate were stored in a wooden warehouse in wooden bins, inside a building without a sprinkler system. No federal regulations exist preventing a company from storing the chemical in such a way. The volunteer firefighters who rushed to the plant to fight a fire that broke out there before the explosion were largely unaware of the dangers of ammonium nitrate, and a local emergency planning committee had not adopted an emergency response plan for the plant. Even if they had, Texas has no statewide fire code that would have established a minimum set of standards to hold industrial sites accountable for the safe handling of chemicals.

Ammonium nitrate is stored at more than 1,300 facilities around the country, but there are no zoning regulations at any level of government to prevent such plants from being located near residential areas, officials said on Tuesday. Other countries have more rigorous standards covering both the storage of the chemical and the proximity to other buildings. [...]

Agency officials said that no other single chemical has caused more widespread harm to the public in preventable accidents than ammonium nitrate. Nevertheless, fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate is not classified as an explosive in the United States.

Want to bet that if the question was a Middle Eastern guy buying a whole lot of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate, the feds would not be like "it's not an explosive, nothing to see here"? But when it comes to the safety of homes and schools next to fertilizer plants, pfft, whatever.

And over the past year, nothing has changed to prevent future such explosions in Texas.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 01:41 PM PDT.

Also republished by TexKos-Messing with Texas with Nothing but Love for Texans and Daily Kos.

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