West Fertilizer Co. Said No Risk of Fire or Explosion

Posted By The Carlson Law Firm || 18-Apr-2013

The Dallas Morning News got their hands on a copy of a West Fertilizer Co. report that it had previously filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the report, the West plant checked the box for “no” when asked if there was a risk of fire or explosion at the worksite. In their own words, West Fertilizer Co. stated:

“The worst possible scenario would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.”

Despite having more than 54,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate on the premises, the plant firmly believed and stated to both the EPA and the local public safety officials that there was no serious risk of injury or death due to an explosion or fire. Last night’s blast proved the contrary.

Tragically, an estimated 15 people have died and at least 160 people injured because of an explosion at the plant last night at about 7:30pm. The count continues, but the injury and death tolls are projected to rise as investigations continue.

In the same report that the plant filed with the EPA, the company stated that the second-worse event that could occur on the premises would be a leak coming from a broken hose. This also, they stated, would cause no injuries or deaths. Clearly, their estimations were incorrect.

So what went wrong? Ammonium nitrate is commonly used in the production of fertilizer, and it was used at this facility. Best practices for handling this chemical warn that, while the substance is not explosion when in gas form, it can explode when in containers or under certain amounts of pressure. Also, water should not be mixed directly with the ammonia, as this could cause the chemical to heat up, adding an additional warning for first responders.

The last recorded incident with West Fertilizer Co. was in 2006 when it was fined by the EPA for failure to have a risk management plan in place. The company paid the fine and promised to implement additional safety measures. There is no record that OSHA inspected this particular plant for adherence to safety regulations within the past five years.

The plant may have underestimated the true risk of danger at the site, but who is to blame? Only after a thorough investigation has been conducted will the public know exactly what caused the accident and who was responsible.

The Carlson Law Firm has offices throughout Central Texas, with an office of Waco. This tragedy hits extremely close to home, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were affected by yesterday’s explosion. As a personal injury law firm, we take on cases such as this. We extend our services to any and all victims of this blast with our sincerest compassion. If you or someone you love was affected by the blast, pleasecontact a Waco personal injury lawyer from our firm today.

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