Huge Explosion at Waco Fertilizer Plant
WACO (April 17, 2013)—Emergency crews from throughout Central Texas responded Wednesday night after a major explosion at a burning fertilizer plant in West north of Waco.
West firefighters were dispatched to the plant earlier in the evening after an earlier fire rekindled.
The explosion was reported at around 7:50 p.m. in a frantic radio call from the scene of the fire at West Fertilizer at 1471 Jerry Mashek Dr. just off Interstate 35.
Numerous injuries were reported and multiple ambulances were requested.
Several buildings were reported destroyed and a nearby nursing home was damaged.
There were reports that people were trapped in the nursing home and in an apartment building.
Scanner traffic indicated that some residents of both the nursing home and apartment building were severely injured.
Children are among the victims, according to reports from the scene.
Two children were reported to be trapped on the second floor of the damaged apartment complex.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said the area looked like a war zone.
He could not say whether there were any deaths and did not know how many people were injured.
Department of Public Safety troopers transported some victims to hospitals in patrol cars, said Gayle Scarbrough at the DPS Communications Center in Waco.
A triage area was established at the intersection of Haven and North Reagan Streets, but it was later moved to Marable Street and Meadow Drive because of the potentially toxic smoke from the fire.
As many as a dozen helicopters were sent to the area and were landing at West High School stadium.
A number of buildings were reported to be burning, some in residential areas and evacuations were underway.
Authorities were going door-to-door checking residences in the area.
West Middle School was one of the buildings reported to be on fire.
Injured victims were being taken to area hospitals.
An officer was dispatched to provide crowd control at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, which issued a call to all staffers to report.
The explosion knocked out power to a large area of the community.
Oncor’s online outage site showed more than a thousand customers without power.
Oncor Outage Website
Interstate 35 remained open, but a number of emergency vehicles were on the highway headed to West and from West to hospitals.
Fire crews from virtually every community in the area headed to the scene.
Waco firefighters and the department’s hazmat team were among the first to respond.
The Killeen Fire Department was sending its hazmat team and 10 firefighters to assist.
A woman who was passing through West on Interstate 35 at the time of the explosion said she and her boyfriend saw a fireball 100-feet wide shoot into the air.
A man who lives 15 miles northwest of Hillsboro felt the concussion from the explosion.
Army Sgt. Rocky J. Havens said in an e-mail he felt the shock in Italy, north of Hillsboro.
Tonya Harris of Groesbeck said in an e-mail she heard the explosion.
“My husband and l were cleaning up the kitchen after supper, and heard what we thought was someone running into our house. It shook our windows and doors. We immediately ran outside looking for the worst,” she said.
Crystal Dahlman of Blum said in an e-mail, “the explosion shook and rumbled my house worse than thunder.”
Brad Smith of Waxahachie said he and his wife heard what sounded like a thunderclap.
Lydia Zimmerman of Bynum was working in the garden with her husband and daughter at the time of the explosion.
“It sounded like three bombs going off very close to us,” she said.
Gulf war veteran Paul L. Manigrasso felt the blast in Waxahachie.
“Based on my naval experience...we knew immediately what it was, but cannot believe it occurred 40 miles away,” he said.
Chris Moore was at a Wednesday night prayer service in Navarro Mills about 35 miles from West.
He said the blast rocked the church.
“We are praying for our neighbors in West right now,” he said.
I didn't see a thread in here... see on in the Lounge forum.
ya, those are definitely 2 separate explosions. first one might be the texas city 2005 explosion. The sky is perfectly clear in one and really cloudy on the other..
Rick Perry LOVES big government now....
Now that his state needs Federal Assistance to clean up this explosion.
What a two faced hypocrite....
Oh wait, he's a politician. I almost fogot....
American capitalism at its finest.
By Joshua Schneyer, Ryan McNeill and Janet Roberts
NEW YORK, April 20 (Reuters) - The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate - which can also be used in bomb making - unaware of any danger there.
Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance. Filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which weren't shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year.
A U.S. congressman and several safety experts called into question on Friday whether incomplete disclosure or regulatory gridlock may have contributed to the disaster.
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "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."
Company officials did not return repeated calls seeking comment on its handling of chemicals and reporting practices. Late on Friday, plant owner Donald Adair released a general statement expressing sorrow over the incident but saying West Fertilizer would have little further comment while it cooperated with investigators to try to determine what happened.
"This tragedy will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come," Adair said in the statement.
Failure to report significant volumes of hazardous chemicals at a site can lead the DHS to fine or shut down fertilizer operations, a person familiar with the agency's monitoring regime said. Though the DHS has the authority to carry out spot inspections at facilities, it has a small budget for that and only a "small number" of field auditors, the person said.
Firms are responsible for self reporting the volumes of ammonium nitrate and other volatile chemicals they hold to the DHS, which then helps measure plant risks and devise security and safety plans based on them.
Since the agency never received any so-called top-screen report from West Fertilizer, the facility was not regulated or monitored by the DHS under its CFAT standards, largely designed to prevent sabotage of sites and to keep chemicals from falling into criminal hands.
The DHS focuses "specifically on enhancing security to reduce the risk of terrorism at certain high-risk chemical facilities," said agency spokesman Peter Boogaard. "The West Fertilizer Co. facility in West, Texas is not currently regulated under the CFATS program."
The West Fertilizer facility was subject to other reporting, permitting and safety programs, spread across at least seven state and federal agencies, a patchwork of regulation that critics say makes it difficult to ensure thorough oversight.
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.
More than 4,000 sites nationwide are subject to the DHS program.
"This shows that the enforcement routine has to be more robust, on local, state and federal levels," said the expert, Sam Mannan, director of process safety center at Texas A&M University. "If information is not shared with agencies, which appears to have happened here, then the regulations won't work."
HODGEPODGE OF REGULATION
Chemical safety experts and local officials suspect this week's blast was caused when ammonium nitrate was set ablaze. Authorities suspect the disaster was an industrial accident, but haven't ruled out other possibilities.
The fertilizer is considered safe when stored properly, but can explode at high temperatures and when it reacts with other substances.
"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.
A blaze was reported shortly before a massive explosion leveled dozens of homes and blew out an apartment building.
A U-Haul truck packed with the substance mixed with fuel oil exploded to raze the Oklahoma federal building in 1995. Another liquid gas fertilizer kept on the West Fertilizer site, anhydrous ammonia, is subject to DHS reporting and can explode under extreme heat.
Wednesday's blast heightens concerns that regulations governing ammonium nitrate and other chemicals - present in at least 6,000 depots and plants in farming states across the country - are insufficient. The facilities serve farmers in rural areas that typically lack stringent land zoning controls, many of the facilities sit near residential areas.
Apart from the DHS, the West Fertilizer site was subject to a hodgepodge of regulation by the EPA, OSHA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Office of the Texas State Chemist.
But the material is exempt from some mainstays of U.S. chemicals safety programs. For instance, the EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP) requires companies to submit plans describing their handling and storage of certain hazardous chemicals. Ammonium nitrate is not among the chemicals that must be reported.
In its RMP filings, West Fertilizer reported on its storage of anhydrous ammonia and said that it did not expect a fire or explosion to affect the facility, even in a worst-case scenario. And it had not installed safeguards such as blast walls around the plant.
A separate EPA program, known as Tier II, requires reporting of ammonium nitrate and other hazardous chemicals stored above certain quantities. Tier II reports are submitted to local fire departments and emergency planning and response groups to help them plan for and respond to chemical disasters. In Texas, the reports are collected by the Department of State Health Services. Over the last seven years, according to reports West Fertilizer filed, 2012 was the only time the company stored ammonium nitrate at the facility.
It reported having 270 tons on site.
"That's just a god awful amount of ammonium nitrate," said Bryan Haywood, the owner of a hazardous chemical consulting firm in Milford, Ohio. "If they were doing that, I would hope they would have gotten outside help."
In response to a request from Reuters, Haywood, who has been a safety engineer for 17 years, reviewed West Fertilizer's Tier II sheets from the last six years. He said he found several items that should have triggered the attention of local emergency planning authorities - most notably the sudden appearance of a large amount of ammonium nitrate in 2012.
"As a former HAZMAT coordinator, that would have been a red flag for me," said Haywood, referring to hazardous materials. (Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Houston, Timothy Gardner and Ayesha Rascoe in Washington, and Selam Gebrekidan and Michael Pell in New York; Editing by Mary Milliken and Robert Birsel)
It kept calling the facility at West a plant. It is not a plant. It is a retailer. And a very small one at that. There was no manufacture, there was no refining, nothing that would be done at a "plant". It was strictly a retailer.
I know very little about the regulatory requirements for such facilities. So much so that I didn't even know ammonium nitrate was commercially available. I thought they had it off the market. However, I'm sure there are different requirements for bulk warehouses and production facilities than just retailers.
The other thing this article is wrong about is the dude that said it was a huge amount of fertilizer. It is absolutely not. 270 tons is 540,000 lbs of product. AN is 34% N which is 183,600 lb actual N. It takes roughly .8 lb N per bushel of corn, so there is only 229,500 bushel of corn worth in that facility. If the average corn yield is 150, there is enough AN there to grow corn on 1,530 acres. That is a very very small amount. They require truckloads of product to come in once they start to move product.
Don't get this thing twisted into something it is not. The facility at West is a very very small operation. It's not some huge production facility or some massive warehouse. This is a very small facility that has probably 5-6 employees unless they run custom applicators. This is basically your local mom and pop cafe of Fertilizer retailers.
Maybe it is part of a local coop or a subsidiary of a larger company or something, but if all it is is this little facility, it is a very very small facility. This is not some evil empire wal-mart type company. This is a very small facility.
"Cruz issued a statement explaining that he voted against the aid because it included a number of spending measures that were not related to disaster relief, including "Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start."
Dumb, lying ****s called liberals, as usual.
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