Federal investigators: Texans still face risk of West-like blast
Communities across Texas remain at risk from the kind of fertilizer explosion that killed 15 people and devastated the town of West almost three years ago, federal investigators reported Monday.
Nineteen facilities statewide that store five tons or more of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate are within a half-mile of a school, hospital or nursing home, according to the report by the staff of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial accidents; it did not identify the sites. The board concluded that there have been only limited improvements in the rules governing storage of the fertilizer since the disaster in West.
“The risk to the public from a catastrophic incident exists through the state of Texas,” the report said.
The sweeping report chastised every level of government, including the city of West, the state of Texas and various federal agencies. All could have taken steps that would have made the disaster far less likely or harmful, according to the board, which does not have enforcement power. SOURCE
I remember the night the fertilizer plant blew up.
It was on April 17, 2013 and my son and I were in the living-room watching TV. It was a very nice night and we had the back door that faces to the south open, letting in some fresh air when we both heard a low volume but deep rumbling sound, it was almost like the sound of distant thunder.
As the crow flies it’s about 90 miles from Rowlett to West and I would have thought it to be impossible for the sound of an explosion to be heard that far, and if my Son hadn’t heard it too I still don’t know if I would have been convinced we were hearing the explosion itself.
Then, a few minutes later, the news broke in on whatever we were watching with a developing story about a *fire* at a plant in West, TX.
Well, as they say in the news business, *more news as we have it*, and that didn’t begin to cover the sheer devastation and loss of life that was suffered by the people of West.
In the aftermath the investigation revealed that the West, Texas, fertilizer plant blast that killed 15 was ‘preventable,’ according to safety board members.
To see a headline saying ‘Texans still face risk of West-like blast’, especially after the recent devastation we endured when the EF-4 tornado ripped through here, tends to give me great pause as I contemplate the *what if* OF that headline.
As the story states, ‘Nineteen facilities statewide that store five tons or more of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate are within a half-mile of a school, hospital or nursing home’.
That one sentence scares the crap out of me and I am not ashamed to say so.
Texas has already had at least ONE devastating experience with ammonium nitrate, The Texas City Disaster, on April 16, 1947, which took place almost 66 years to the day before the West explosion.
I know that fertilizer facilities don’t store the great amounts that were detonated in the Texas City disaster, but the death and destruction of the blast in West should be more than enough evidence that there has to be a better way to store this stuff and provide at least some level of security against its theft and misuse.
Who would use fertilizer in a destructive manner today? Timothy McVeigh did when he bombed Oklahoma City.
The explosive material suspected in the Oklahoma City bombing was a mixture of fuel oil and a garden-variety ingredient in fertilizer, ammonium nitrate.
There are already enough dangers from ammonium nitrate without keeping it anywhere near schools and hospitals or where terrorists and anarchists can get their hands on it.