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Tragedy in Texas Reveals Lack of Regulation at West Fertilizer Co.

May 2, 2013 – In the aftermath of last month’s deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in the tiny farming community of West, Texas, lawmakers are questioning regulatory agencies on oversight and safety procedures that could have prevented the disaster. The blast killed 15 people, injured more than 200, and destroyed nearly 150 homes. Investigators are still in the process of determining what ignited the explosion, but it now appears likely that a volatile synthetic fertilizer known as ammonium nitrate stored at the plant may have been responsible for the massive size of the blast.

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?

On Wednesday, lawmakers at the Texas Capitol questioned state agencies over West Fertilizer Co.’s safety and regulation, but didn’t get many answers. Eight state agencies were invited to testify at the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee hearing, which was chaired by state Rep. Joseph Pickett. As the investigation into the cause of the blast is still ongoing, many of the lawmakers’ questions dealt with fertilizer plant regulation in Texas, and not whether or not last month’s tragedy could have been avoided.

“The intent of this hearing is to try to shed light on where these facilities are located,” Pickett said at the beginning of the meeting. “This will be a learning process for the community at large. Ultimately, this is probably going to be a national issue.”

And though little headway was made in the way of policy change, yesterday’s hearing did make clear that among the various state agencies with oversight of Texas fertilizer plants, there is no single entity responsible for safety inspections or emergency response. Ammonium nitrate now seems likely to have caused the blast, which was stored in large quantities at the West Fertilizer Co. There are more than 1,100 companies that store this type of explosive fertilizer in Texas, and about 42 fertilizer mixing plants like the one in West.

But since ammonium nitrate isn’t currently classified as an “extremely hazardous” chemical, companies that store it only have to report to authorities if they have more than 10,000 pounds in stock. However, Texas could have stricter reporting requirements if it chose to. The West Fertilizer plant was reportedly storing 270 tons of ammonium nitrate at the time of the explosion.

Disclosing where these chemicals are stored, and responding to emergencies at facilities that store them, is currently the responsibility of local officials. There are more than 14,000 plants in the state of Texas that report storing ‘extremely hazardous substances’ on site. Representatives from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) testified that chlorine and battery acid are the most common hazardous substances housed near populated areas, but the department only oversees reporting, not safety.

“There’s no overarching plan to educate people of what’s in their areas,” said Steve McCraw, Director of the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Plants like the West Fertilizer Co. are required to share data on safety and hazardous chemicals with local officials and emergency planning committees, but they often fail to do so, and those local committees may not always put plans in place to respond to disasters like the one that occurred in West.

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.

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