Last week a fertilizer facility in West, Texas was the site of a major explosion. According to sources, a fire broke out after work hours. State and federal investigators have not yet determined the cause of the disaster. The explosion that followed could be heard miles away and was so powerful it registered as a small earthquake.
The West Fertilizer Co. stored, distributed and blended fertilizers, including anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate, for use by farmers around the Central Texas community. Many other towns in Texas, like many towns across America, have small fertilizer distributors operating under similar regulations near populated areas. Local zoning authorities, not a federal agency, determine how close a facility, like West Fertilizer, can be to population centers. Under state law, storage of hazardous chemicals must be disclosed to the community fire department and to the county emergency planning agency, in addition to the state.
In Texas, the state’s minimal approach to zoning puts plants just yards away from schools, homes, and other populated areas. Do you know if you live near a facility that stores or manufactures extremely hazardous substances?