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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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Comment Preferences

  •  Texas remains a utopia for corporate persons (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero, Susan from 29, art ah zen

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:06:11 PM PDT

  •  I can't find the link, but I was reading the (5+ / 0-)

    other day that West is looking to rebuild the plant.

    With no new regulations in place.

    It's unreal to me.  I mean, I understand the loss of employment to the town, as well as the need for fertilizer in the area, but to just ignore what happened, shrug their shoulders and move to rebuild it it beyond my capacity to understand.

    Especially knowing that it's possible to own a disaster in the making like that plant and carry next to no insurance on it.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:15:52 PM PDT

    •  I'm willing to bet that they want the jobs more (5+ / 0-)

      than the security.

      When the American worker is paid only enough to stay afloat, they are more willing to take risks that they shouldn't have to. This is what a government is for - to protect the workers and their communities through regulations.

      We have just failed. We have failed to prove that our government is a force for good and not the source of all evil.

      I am sorry that President Obama did not rise to the level of influence that Ronald Reagan was able to wield when he told us that "government was not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

  •  recently in the los angeles area, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero

    i heard some city foreskin talking on a tv op ed piece about how 50 california businesses had relocated to texas because they have lower taxes and fewer regulations.  this asshat was extolling the dem gov to drop taxes and roll back regulations to keep those businesses in california, that texas is right.  california had years of republican governance, all of it horrible for the state and its people, and now the rwnjs out of power are trying to tell them they need to emulate one of the brain deadest boobs to ever grace office.  i don't think so and this story is the complete reason why.  

    "I am an old woman, named after my mother. my old man is another child who's grown old." John Prine (not an old woman)

    by art ah zen on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:31:10 PM PDT

    •  Well, as of 2011, there were almost (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      claude

      849,316 nonfarm businesses in California.

      That is like $1.50 to someone who makes $25,000/year.

      I'll pay that for a fire code.

      Money should be treated like any other controlled substance; if you can't use it responsibly then you don't get to use it.

      by La Gitane on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:29:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Heard a report on NPR (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero

    recently about the anniversary. The folks they talked to in town don't blame the plant and I think they're having trouble getting a bill passed that would require sprinkler systems in a place like this. Fucking sprinkler systems. I was fairly livid.

    You're gonna need a bigger boat.

    by Debby on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:31:28 PM PDT

  •  good versus bad chem plant explosion (0+ / 0-)

    the only thing that stops a bad chem plant explosion is a good chem plant explosion

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Tue Apr 22, 2014 at 02:35:17 PM PDT

  •  Here is CSB's News Release (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMScott

    emical Safety Board Ongoing Investigation Emphasizes Lack of Protection for Communities at Risk from Ammonium Nitrate Storage Facilities; Finds Lack of Regulation at All Levels of Government

     Dallas, TX April 22, 2014 – Today the CSB released preliminary findings into the April 17, 2013, West Fertilizer explosion and fire in West, Texas, which resulted in at least 14 fatalities, 226 injuries, and widespread community damage.  Large quantities of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertilizer exploded after being heated by a fire at the storage and distribution facility.  The CSB’s investigation focuses on shortcomings in existing regulations, standards, and guidance at the federal, state and county level.  

    The investigative team’s presentation will occur this evening at a public meeting in West, Texas, at 5:30 pm CDT.

    CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “The fire and explosion at West Fertilizer was preventable. It should never have occurred. It resulted from the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it.”

    The CSB’s investigation found that at the state level, there is no fire code and in fact counties under a certain population are prohibited from having them.  “Local authorities and specifically—local fire departments—need fire codes so they can hold industrial operators accountable for safe storage and handling of chemicals,” said Dr. Moure-Eraso.

    CSB Supervisory Investigator Johnnie Banks said “The CSB found at all levels of government a failure to adopt codes to keep populated areas away from hazardous facilities, not just in West, Texas. We found 1,351 facilities across the country that store ammonium nitrate.  Farm communities are just starting to collect data on how close homes or schools are to AN storage, but there can be little doubt that West is not alone and that other communities should act to determine what hazards might exist in proximity.”

    The CSB’s preliminary findings follow a yearlong investigation which has focused on learning how to prevent a similar accident from occurring in another community. “It is imperative that people learn from the tragedy at West,” Dr. Moure-Eraso said.

    The investigation notes other AN explosions have occurred, causing widespread devastation. A 2001 explosion in France caused 31 fatalities, 2500 injuries and widespread community damage. In the United States, a 1994 incident caused 4 fatalities and eighteen injuries. More recently a July 2009 AN fire in Bryan, Texas, led to an evacuation of tens of thousands of residents. Fortunately no explosion occurred in the Bryan, Texas, incident which highlights the unpredictable nature of AN.

    The CSB’s investigation determined that lessons learned during emergency responses to AN incidents – in which firefighters perished --  have not been effectively disseminated to firefighters and emergency responders in other communities where AN is stored and utilized.

    The CSB has found that on April 17, 2013, West volunteer firefighters were not aware of the explosion hazard from the AN stored at West Fertilizer and were caught in harm’s way when the blast occurred.

    Investigators note that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that firefighters evacuate from AN fires of “massive and uncontrollable proportions.” Federal DOT guidance contained in the Emergency Response Guidebook, which is widely used by firefighters, suggests fighting even large ammonium nitrate fertilizer fires by “flood[ing] the area with water from a distance.”  However, the investigation has found,  the response guidance appears to be vague since terms such as “massive,” “uncontrollable,” “large,” and “distance” are not clearly defined.

    Investigator Banks said, “All of these provisions should be reviewed and harmonized in light of the West disaster to ensure that firefighters are adequately protected and are not put into danger protecting property alone.”

    The CSB has previously noted that while U.S. standards for ammonium nitrate have apparently remained static for decades, other countries have more rigorous standards covering both storage and siting of nearby buildings. For example, the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive states in guidance dating to 1996 that “ammonium nitrate should normally be stored in single story, dedicated, well-ventilated buildings that are constructed from materials that will not burn, such as concrete, bricks or steel.”  The U.K. guidance calls for storage bays “constructed of a material that does not burn, preferably concrete.”

    At the county level, McLennan County’s local emergency planning committee did not have an emergency response plan for West Fertilizer as it might have done under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act.  The community clearly was not aware of the potential hazard at West Fertilizer.

    Chairperson Moure-Eraso commended recent action by the Fertilizer Institute in establishing an auditing and outreach program for fertilizer retailers called ResponsibleAg, and for disseminating with the Agricultural Retailers Association a document called “Safety and Security Guidelines for the Storage and Transportation of Fertilizer Grade Ammonium Nitrate at Fertilizer Retail Facilities.” It also contains recommendations for first responders in the event of a fire.  

    “We welcome this very positive step,” Dr. Moure-Eraso said, “We hope that the whole industry embraces these voluntary guidelines rather than being accepted only by the companies that choose to volunteer.”

    The Chairperson called on states and counties across the country to take action in identifying hazards and requiring the safe storage and handling of ammonium nitrate. “Regulations need to be updated and new ones put in place. The state of Texas, McLennan County, OSHA and the EPA have work to do, because this hazard exists in hundreds of locations across the U.S.  However, it is important to note that there is no substitute for an efficient regulatory system that ensures that all companies are operating to the same high standards. We cannot depend on voluntary compliance.”

    The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

    The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.

    For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen, cell  202-446-8094  or Sandy Gilmour, Public Affairs, cell  202-251-5496

  •  Safety is tyranny (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    claude, bleedingheartliberal218

    Disaster s freedom.

    Legal means "good".
    [41984 | Feb 4, 2005]

    by xxdr zombiexx on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:10:13 PM PDT

  •  Texas has NO (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bleedingheartliberal218

    statewide fire code?!?!?  WTF?

    Texas + Louisiana = our own little third world country

    Money should be treated like any other controlled substance; if you can't use it responsibly then you don't get to use it.

    by La Gitane on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:14:31 PM PDT

    •  No building codes, either. (2+ / 0-)

      I have built houses there, as a licensed (in another state, as Tejas,  in her august sovereignty, requires neither codes nor licenses) Contractor at the time.  That was the late '80s, so things may have changed.  Local municipalities were/are free to enact such regulations as they may deem necessary to do an Austin or  Dallas or Houston level of civilisation.

      Not that I am any kind of authority on Tejas Law or anything. Just been living due west of it for over forty years, so I can't help but form my own opinions.

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 08:03:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow (0+ / 0-)

        Well I'm sure things have changed since the 80's. But I wouldn't be surprised if that's the case!

        Money should be treated like any other controlled substance; if you can't use it responsibly then you don't get to use it.

        by La Gitane on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 01:01:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank Laura. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster

    "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

    by HoundDog on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:14:57 PM PDT

  •  The convenience of merchants. (0+ / 0-)

    An important concept to grasp,  as much of Law and our daily lives is predicated upon it.

    Need I elaborate?

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:19:16 PM PDT

  •  texas 'regulators' could care less if every (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bleedingheartliberal218

    chemical plant in the state blew up tomorrow.

  •  Terrorism (2+ / 0-)

    If a Muslim had done this.....

    If a Mexican had done this.....

    If anybody not white had done this...

    Fox News would still be on it every day, the Republicans would make their obsession over Benghazi look like some long forgotten teenage crush, and anyone who posts here would have an NSA file for sure.

    But it was an American business, in Texas. Nothing to see here, move along, don't interfere.

    Criminally negligent homicide is a thing. It's a charge we need to start applying more often. OSHA fines, if they happen, are just the cost of business. Real prison time on the other hand would actually get some of these folks to pay attention.

    Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

    by tcorse on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 07:44:46 PM PDT

  •  This is a slap in the face to my dead brothers. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bleedingheartliberal218

    Ten "first responders" (aka firefighters) were killed in that blast.  Writing off their lives like they were so many blades of grass is an insult to firefighters everywhere.

    To the rich guys who owned that place and the politicians that they donate heavily to, our lives are just another "cost of doing business."

    May that rot.

    Celtic Merlin
    Second-generation Firefighter

    Struggle with dignity against injustice. IS there anything more honorable that a person can do?

    by Celtic Merlin on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 08:09:52 PM PDT

  •  the town i live in (2+ / 0-)

    My town in central Texas had several fertilizer storage areas, all very old, all made of wood, in the center of town, right next to a railroad track. About 5 years ago, the bins were emptied and the property was put up for sale. My husband never wanted to tell me that if this facility had had an explosion or a fire, it would have leveled the central portion of the town, a very large area.

  •  You people are awfully hard on these poor company (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bleedingheartliberal218

    Owners.  I bet there are only poor people or workers living near the fertilizer storage. What can they do? In this country its all for me and fuck you.  I'm an expat that hasn't moved out yet.  Mac

    Some truth will always be, among the lies we see.

    by waukez on Thu Apr 24, 2014 at 08:49:18 PM PDT

  •  1947, Texas City, Texas Is When We Learned That (0+ / 0-)

    ammonium nitrate fertilizer had a critical mass and couldn't be stored safely in large piles or else it would start to decompose generating heat further accelerating the decomposition generating even more heat speeding up the decomposition until it detonated.

    The problem is that many Texans call themselves "Christian" and leave safety up to GOD.

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