West Fertilizer Co. | KERA News

West Fertilizer Co.

Report: Not Enough Done Since West Explosion

Jan 29, 2016
State Farm / flickr.com

The Texas Legislature’s efforts to beef up state oversight and avert deadly disasters like the 2013 West fertilizer plant explosion have been “not entirely adequate,” the federal Chemical Safety Board says in its final report on the disaster.

Texas Republican Greg Abbott, who's been cruising toward easy victory in the governor's race against Democrat Wendy Davis, is making some campaign news this week — and not the good kind.

His actions and comments have brought his relationship to the state's chemical industry under scrutiny.

BJ Austin / KERA News

The first day of school Monday will be a homecoming for returning middle and high school students in West.  After their schools were damaged in the April fertilizer plant explosion, they finished the school year in Waco. This year, they’ll be on a large campus of portable buildings.

BJ Austin / KERA News

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, wants governors to take action to ensure safe storage of ammonium nitrate.

State Farm / flickr.com

Federal lawmakers want better regulation and enforcement of potentially explosive fertilizer chemicals. Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works promised a new urgency among federal regulators to prevent a disaster like the explosion in West from happening again. 

US Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works committee says it's time to hear what the experts on the ground think caused the April 17th explosion, and how to prevent another one.

State Farm / Flickr.com

4:46: Chris Connealy , Texas State Fire Marshal, says after one of the most intense explosion investigations ever undertaken by the ATF, the cause of the fire and explosion in West on April 17,  is officially undetermined, and the investigation continues. 

Officials are still looking at possible causes that could have started the fire and  the explosion, including the 120 volt plant, a nearby golf cart, and the possibility the blast might have been caused intentionally. The investigation is being treated as a criminal investigation, and again, it is ongoing. 

In one crime report reviewed by Reuters, a company official told police that thieves repeatedly tampered with tanks to steal anhydrous ammonia that could be used to make methamphetamine.

Joe Berti

State emergency officials say the West Fertilizer plant where an explosion killed 14 people was under no obligation to have an evacuation plan. A Homeland Security Hearing also revealed that other North Texas Counties store ammonium nitrate, a substance that was kept at the blast site.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told lawmakers there are more than 1,000 facilities statewide that store it in some capacity

Jerry Larson / Waco Tribune-Herald

Our final post, 4:51 p.m.: Taps is played and folded U.S. flags are delivered to family members of the deceased.

In the background sit flag-draped coffins and photos of those lost in the explosion. Amazing Grace is played on bag pipes, and the memorial service comes near an end with a benediction given by Bishop Joe S. Vasquez.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Reporter Courtney Collins expected just another grueling disaster scene when she left Dallas before dawn Thursday. But that's not what she found. Here's a reporter's view of West, and the people who fuel its beating heart.

BJ Austin / KERA News

Officials in West, Texas confirm that Wednesday's fertilizer plant explosion killed at least 14 people, injured 200 and damaged about 50 homes.  The owner of West Fertilizer, Donald Adair issued a statement saying, "My heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses to so many families in our community." 

BJ Austin / KERA News

During a tour of West today, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn confirmed that ammonium nitrate was found at the site of the explosion.  It’s a fertilizer component also used to make bombs.

The information comes as federal and state agencies arrive in West to investigate the cause of the tragedy.

  Floyd Wolf, like many of his neighbors, was surprised to learn the explosion that tore apart their community may have come from West Fertilizer.  After all, the company had been there for decades, sitting near their school and homes.