According to the US Chemical Safety Board, the fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people last year in West, Texas could have been prevented, even if it is not clear what started an initial fire that triggered the blast. The board announced its findings after a year of investigating the blast that injured 200 people and decimated parts of the town.
The safety board said the owners of West Fertilizer Co. failed to safely store hazardous chemicals or prepare for a potential disaster. The board also said several levels of federal, state and local government missed opportunities to prevent the tragedy. Despite investigations that have yielded information about safety deficiencies at the plant, not a single state or federal law requiring change has been passed since April 17, 2013.
As many as 34 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated inside West Fertilizer Co. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical commonly used in fertilizer and as an industrial explosive, but it is dangerous under certain conditions or when handled improperly. The West plant had 40 to 60 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in wooden containers inside a wooden building with no sprinkler system, and there was even more ammonium nitrate in a rail car outside the building.
Daniel Horowitz, the chemical safety board’s managing director, told The Associated Press that even if some questions remain unanswered, “we know more than enough to keep this from happening again.”
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Did You Know: In Texas, companies can still store hazardous chemicals in flammable wooden containers in buildings without sprinklers, and firefighters are still not required to train how to fight fires like the ones in the West, Texas explosion.
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