The West plant was investigated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2006 after someone reported a "very bad" ammonia smell. In that investigation:
West Fertilizer Co. reported having as much as 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on hand in an emergency planning report required of facilities that use toxic or hazardous chemicals.We don't know yet what started this fire and explosion, but it's pretty clear that the company understated the risks it posed, and that our workplace safety inspection system is not robust enough.
But the report, reviewed Wednesday night by The Dallas Morning News, stated “no” under fire or explosive risks. The worst possible scenario, the report said, would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.
The second worst possibility projected was a leak from a broken hose used to transfer the product, again causing no injuries.
For more discussion, see Eternal Hope's recommended diary.