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Two Years After West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion, Are Workers Any Safer? New Report Says No


Two Years After West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion, Are Workers Any Safer? New Report Says No

Elizabeth Grossman

On April 17, 2013, a massive fire and explosion tore through the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, killing 15 people—including 10 volunteer firefighters—and injuring more than 200. Fueled by the 30 or so tons of explosive ammonium nitrate on site, the blast ripped through the wooden building and its flammable contents, destroying three nearby schools, a nursing home and devastating 37 city blocks.


Having these kinds of follow up reports is really important, especially given Americans short attention span. Thank you to the investigative reporters on this.


As politicscorner points out, follow up reports are important. Unfortunately, what this particular article reports is that there is still nothing to report, two years after.

On the good side, the author has not (as so many others have) blamed West Fertilizer for failing to notify the government of its fertilizer holdings (which we know about by reading the reports which West Fertilizer made to the government).

On the less-than-ideal side, the article points out how various government agencies which should have nothing to do with the problem have done nothing.

So what should be done? More regulations, just for the sake of more regulations, will do no more good than fewer regulations. In order to have usefull regulations, we need to know what went wrong (physically, not in terms of compliance with reporting requirements). The only investigation into what happened was made by the criminal investigators. The criminal investigators must be compelled to tell us what went wrong physically – that is, what the new regulations will need to prevent. (My personal suspicion, based on the colors of the fireball in the phone recordings, is that someone mixed some sort of “organic” fertilizer, or perhaps even seeds, into the ammonium nitrate. To my knowledge, no investigator has addressed that possibility.)

Additionally, zoning officials need to be held responsible for allowing the city to grow toward the hazard. We already have reporting regulations in place, but they do no good if the government which requires the information does not then use it. Building a high-density residence so close to the pre-existing fertilizer facility was worse than stupid and worse than negligent. Someone made a lot of money on placing the civilians who ultimately died in harm’s way – and that someone was not Adair (whom the local government has sued).