A fertilizer plant in West, Texas, was the scene of a devastating fire and chemical explosion that killed at least 14 people and left more than 180 injured last week. According to recent reports, the West Fertilizer Plant had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would typically trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). However, the company that owns the plant failed to notify the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer, leaving one of the major regulators of ammonium nitrate – which can be used to make bombs – unaware of any potential dangers at the Texas plant. Authorities suspect the devastating fire and explosion was an industrial accident, which likely could have been avoided had the proper precautions been taken regarding the explosive ammonium nitrate.
DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES OF TEXAS PLANT BLAST
The initial explosion at the fertilizer plant occurred on the evening of April 17, but officials were still struggling to estimate the number of those injured and killed early the next morning, searching door-to-door amid the rubble for survivors, said Sgt. William Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police Department. Initial concerns were raised about the possibility of dangerous ammonia fumes and shifting winds in the aftermath of the explosion, which flattened buildings, obliterated part of the small Texas town and prompted widespread evacuations. Witnesses to the explosion reported heavy fire or concussive damage to homes, an apartment complex and a middle school near the fertilizer plant, in addition to a nursing home, where more than 130 residents were evacuated. According to officials, buildings in an estimated five-block radius – including at least 60 more homes – were heavily damaged by the blast, which was felt 20 to 30 miles away.
FERTILIZER PLANT FAILED TO REPORT TO DHS
Officials are now questioning whether incomplete disclosure and improper handling of chemicals may have contributed to the deadly explosion at the West, Texas plant. Fertilizer plants and depots are required to report to DHS when they hold 400 pounds or more of ammonium nitrate. However, according to filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services (which weren’t shared with DHS), the Texas plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year. “It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS). “This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up.”
CONSULT OUR EXPERIENCED ATTORNEYS FOR LEGAL HELP
The most pressing questions among officials now are related to the fertilizer plant’s questionable reporting practices regarding the amount of ammonium nitrate the firm had on-site prior to the fire and explosion. “I strongly believe that if the proper safeguards were in place, as are at thousands of (DHS) CFATS-regulated plants across the country, the loss of life and destruction could have been far less extensive,” said Rep. Thompson. If you have suffered injuries in a workplace accident in Texas, or if you lost a loved one in a deadly accident, contact our reputable attorneys at Bandas Law Firm today. Our lawyers have years of experience protecting the rights of victims of on-the-job accidents throughout Texas, and will work diligently to help you recover the workers’ compensation benefits you and your family are entitled to.