Prior to the blast that killed at least 14 people in the tiny farming community of West, Texas, the fertilizer plant blamed for the tragedy had gone without an inspection since 1985. Authorities are still trying to determine what ignited the explosion, but it now appears likely that a ‘substantial amount’ of ammonium nitrate stored at the plant was responsible for the sheer destructiveness of the event. Ammonium nitrate was the primary explosive used by bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to level the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.
West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Update 5/7/13: Investigators have confirmed that a massive store of ammonium nitrate caused last month’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, Texas. However, the ignition source of the blast continues to remain a mystery. Click here to learn more.
Free West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Lawsuit Evaluation: Our law firm has already been contacted by residents of West, Texas, and are now currently representing a number of victims in the horrible tragedy. If you or somebody you know was harmed by this fertilizer plant explosion, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit against the companies responsible and we can help.
What’s the Problem?
Although the events leading up to April 17th’s deadly explosion are still under investigation, it is now known for certain that the West Fertilizer Co. hadn’t been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since 1985. Additionally, the owners of the plant failed to inform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that they were storing large quantities of the volatile fertilizer ammonium nitrate, as federal regulations require. And the most recent partial safety inspection of the plant in 2011 led to more than $5,000 in fines.
At least seven different state and federal agencies have the ability to regulate and inspect facilities like the West Fertilizer Co. They are:
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
- Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
- Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service
It now appears clear that some of these agencies failed to share information before this month’s explosion. Facilities that store more than 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, for example, are required to notify the Department of Homeland Security. The West Fertilizer Co. held 270 tons of ammonium nitrate in 2012, but it reportedly failed to supply DHS with this information.
It’s still unclear was to whether any of the above-listed agencies failed to inspect the plant when they should have. OSHA conducted its last full safety inspection of the facility in 1985. Since then, officials from other agencies have visited the plant, but they only inspected certain aspects of its operations, such as whether the facility was complying with labeling rules when packaging its fertilizer.
Over the past two years, OSHA has conducted inspections based in part on the level of risk that facilities reported to the EPA. Since the West Fertilizer Co. told the EPA there was no risk of a fire or an explosion, OSHA didn’t consider it a priority. The plant may also have been exempt from certain types of inspections since it was classified as a small employer. It has yet to be determined whether the plant had such an exemption.
The investigation into the cause of the explosion is still ongoing, but don’t expect any groundbreaking conclusions anytime soon. One of the agencies heading up the investigation, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, is still investigating a Washington State oil refinery explosion that killed seven workers three years ago, as well as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers in 2010, and sent oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for months.
Do I Have a West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Lawsuit?
The Workplace and Environmental Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new injury and death cases in all 50 states.
Free West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Lawsuit Evaluation: Our law firm has already been contacted by residents of West, Texas, and are now currently representing a number of victims in the horrible tragedy. If you or somebody you know was harmed by this fertilizer plant explosion, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion suit and we can help.