On Wednesday April 17,2013, the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas exploded. Fifteen people were killed including an EMT, eight local volunteer firefighters, and a Dallas firefighter. Reports have revealed more than 200 people were injured. The explosion was linked to the improper handling and storage ammonium nitrate
Located in West, Texas, West Fertilizer Company supplies chemicals to farmers, including multiple kinds of fertilizer. The company was founded in 1962 and is owned by Adair Grain Inc. The owner is a lifelong resident of West, Texas. The company issued a statement stating they are working with investigators to uncover facts connected to the tragedy.
When the plant exploded, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not inspected the facility since 1985, a fact key to the overall investigation. According to news reports, the company had 270 tons of ammonium nitrate on site. Ammonium nitrate is a common material in fertilizer, and it is highly flammable and dangerous. Federal law requires any business holding more than a ton of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate to report their inventory to the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano has reported the West Fertilizer Company failed to follow protocol.
West Fertilizer Company has been cited twice by federal agencies since 2006. In 2012, the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration fined West Fertilizer $5,250 for storing anhydrous ammonia in tanks lacking proper warning labels. The agency originally fined West Fertilizer Company $10,000 but reduced the fine after the company took corrective action. In 2006, the EPA fined company owners $2,300 to correct issues related to failing to file a risk management program plan on time.
The explosion caused millions of dollars in damage. Homes, public schools, and other property were severely damaged. Nearly two weeks later investigators are still searching for clues regarding the source of this tragic explosion.