APR 18 2013

West Fertilizer Plant Explosion

Industrial Accident, Infrastructure

The West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion is an example of hazardous infrastructure built too close to residential areas.  Consideration should be given to having the risk management plans (RMPs) for industrial facilities and other commercial enterprises conducted by regulatory agencies (or their agents) rather than by the agents of these facilities’ owners.  Within the red inner circle of the hazard zone, all people present probably died.  Within the outer yellow circle, close to half the citizens were injured (417 people resided within this circle’s area).  It is important to prevent future incidents such as this.

WestFertilzier

Reports filed with EPA indicated that only anhydrous ammonia was stored at the facility. See http://www.rtknet.org/db/rmp/rmp.php?facility_id=100000135597&database=rmp&detail=3&datype=T .

Recent news reports indicate that up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate were also stored there.

This magnitude of ammonium nitrate storage would trigger requirements to report to DHS and be subject to its oversight. According the the article, “An expert in chemical safety standards said the two major federal government programs that are supposed to ensure chemical safety in industry – led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – do not regulate the handling or storage of ammonium nitrate. That task falls largely to the DHS and the local and state agencies that oversee emergency planning and response.”  According to various sources, this storage was never reported to DHS.

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