Texas town rocked by explosion

by Syeda Zahra Khan, Staff Writer

On April 17th, an explosion of the West Texas Fertilizer Company Plant rocked the tiny town of West, Texas, a small town of 2,500 people 75 miles outside of Dallas. This explosion left 14 people dead many of who were first responders from the fire department of West, more than 160 people were injured, and at least a dozen buildings including a nursing home, an apartment complex, and a nearby middle school was destroyed.

Investigators have not yet determined what started the explosion or whether or not it was intentional. The damage according to is estimated to exceed $100 million. Many are now wondering what exactly caused this explosion that almost wiped out an entire town, but according to the fertilizer plant was not inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) since 1985. The owners of the plant also stored a large number of potentially explosive fertilizers and the most recent partial safety inspection of the plant in 2011 led to a $5,250 fine.

Just recently the owner of the fertilizer company in West, Texas is being sued by four separate insurance companies and a woman whose apartment and vehicle was destroyed in the blast. The first lawsuit was filed April 19th by insurance companies who seek an unspecified amount of damages for, “negligent acts and omissions”, which allegedly caused the explosion. The second lawsuit was brought by a single mother who lost her apartment and all her possessions, including her vehicle, and is seeking $500,000 to $1 million dollars in damage.

The tragedy of that happened in West, Texas is very devastating to hear, especially just days after the Boston Marathon Bombings; it is very heart breaking. Though it is unclear what exactly might have led to the explosion, one possible thought might be due to the chemicals that were contained in the fertilizer. The plant stored a large number of explosive fertilizers; these kinds of fertilizers contain either Anydrous Ammonia or Ammounium Nitrate, both of which are inorganic fertilizers. Looking closely at these chemicals, Anhydrous Ammonia is a gas that causes severe burns when it comes in contact with skin, but does not burst into flames however, when Ammonium Nitrate is mixed with a fuel and ignited it can become a powerful explosive. What could have led to this explosion might have been due to the fact that since there was a lot of fertilizer in the plant, some of the fertilizers might have spilled and came into contact with other chemicals that caused the explosion.

The people who are in charge of the fertilizer plant should face some charges due to the fact that they failed to have a full safety inspection by OHSA, and the time that they had a “half inspection” they were forced to pay a fine for safety violations. Clearly these are dangerous volatile chemicals that they are dealing with, and they need to take extreme precautions otherwise dangerous things such as an explosion can happen. The people in charge of the plant must be very careless and lazy otherwise something like this would have never happened.