Fertilizer Plant Explodes in Texas

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My first thought was, "Oh, no, not again."

This was just a horrific accident. Dozens Killed, Hundreds Injured In Fertilizer Plant Explosion « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth


A fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West, north of Waco, has killed as many as 70 people and injured hundreds. However, no official numbers have been released.
  • Profile picture of the author jimbo13
    Main story on the News over here this morning.

    Very sad.

    Dan
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  • Profile picture of the author wlasikiewicz
    The US is not having much luck this week.
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    • Profile picture of the author derekwong28
      Still, the timing and location is a bit suspicious. I hope this is just an accident with no connections to the Boston bombing. Anyway I hope all US warriors take care.

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  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    What the hell are they making fertilizer out of -- I don't want to eat any of that crap.

    This is the first I've heard of it. Will check again when I get up. The Waco area sure has its problems.

    My condolences to anyone hurt, and to the families of the deceased.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
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      Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

      What the hell are they making fertilizer out of --
      Not my subject at all, but fertilizers and explosives are pretty closely chemically related, I think? Don't they both commonly contain "ammonium nitrate" or something?

      Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

      I don't want to eat any of that crap.
      This is also true. :p

      Condolences to the families of all those affected.
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      • Profile picture of the author Thomas
        Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

        Not my subject at all, but fertilizers and explosives are pretty closely chemically related, I think? Don't they both commonly contain "ammonium nitrate" or something?
        Not related - the same. It's the ammonium nitrate that can be made to explode when mixed with kerosene and detonated by a smaller explosive. Though not as 'concentrated' as conventional explosives, it can be extremely powerful... almost all IRA bombs used during 'the Troubles' in Northern Ireland were fertiliser-based; by the mid-70s, they were consuming the stuff at a rate of about 50 tonnes a year. The last bomb was, I think, the Bishopsgate bombing in London, where just 1 tonne of the stuff produced an explosion with a blast radius of about 500 metres, causing over £1 billion (c. U.S.$1.5 billion) in damage. For reference, some similar-sized bombs currently in use by various armed forces cause damage in an area less than half that.

        So it's not hard to see why so much damage was caused in Texas, though the plant does seem to be amazingly close to the town. You'd have to wonder why it was permitted that close (assuming it wasn't there before the nearby buildings... in which case, you'd have to wonder why they were built so close instead... in either case, fertilizer plants and residential areas are not a good mix, to put it mildly!).
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        • Profile picture of the author joseph7384
          Originally Posted by Thomas View Post

          Not related - the same. It's the ammonium nitrate that can be made to explode when mixed with kerosene and detonated by a smaller explosive. Though not as 'concentrated' as conventional explosives, it can be extremely powerful...
          It sure is powerful, Timothy Mcvea used fertilizer to bring down the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The image below shows just how powerful it can be.



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    • Profile picture of the author TiffanyLambert
      Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

      What the hell are they making fertilizer out of -- I don't want to eat any of that crap.
      They make fertilizer that you buy for your garden/yard, also make pesticide and rodenticide.
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      • Profile picture of the author MissTerraK
        I saw this on the news this morning and my heart is heavy for everyone. My thoughts and prayers go out to all victims, families and people in that area.

        You too Tiff, I can't imagine having the feelings and thoughts you just described.

        Terra
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    • Profile picture of the author Raydal
      Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

      What the hell are they making fertilizer out of -- I don't want to eat any of that crap.

      This is the first I've heard of it. Will check again when I get up. The Waco area sure has its problems.

      My condolences to anyone hurt, and to the families of the deceased.
      Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are searching for an unidentified man who has been trying to buy between 500 and 1,000 metric tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. When combined with fuel oil and a detonator, ammonium nitrate can become a powerful explosive--it's what Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh used. ATF is concerned that the man they're looking for, who has allegedly been using a Middle Eastern surname and phony credentials, has similarly destructive plans. If ammonium nitrate fertilizer is so dangerous, why does the agriculture industry keep using it?

      Because ammonium nitrate is in many ways one of the best (and certainly one of the cheapest) sources of crop-nourishing nitrogen available. For starters, ammonium nitrate is inexpensive to manufacture. The process involves nothing more complicated than mixing together ammonia and nitric acid; the first batch of the stuff was synthesized way back in 1659 by German chemist Johann R. Glauber. A ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer costs, on average, about $100 less than a ton of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, one of the best alternatives.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        The Texas plant had 54,000 lbs of anhydrous ammonia.

        There had been complaints in the past of an ammonia odor in the plant.

        But here's where we need to point some fingers.

        EPA fined the plant in 2006 - OSHA has not inspected it in the past five years.

        We need to stop the current practice of expensive agencies failing to protect the public and workers and instead focusing on issuing political correct volumes of minute regulations.

        OSHA is supposed to inspect workplaces for worker safety - the EPA is supposed to protect the environment. Neither one is doing the job - no huge company that stores and uses this type of material should be operating year after year without any inspections.

        Anyone should realize a fertilizer plant will have dangerous materials on site - that's not changed in many years. If you can smell ammonia - it's in the air and that's a problem for workers and those living nearby. However, in this case the plant was allowed to offer reassurances about potential hazards and go on with business as usual without challenge or safety inspections.
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  • Profile picture of the author TiffanyLambert
    I'm in Kennedale and I felt the blast My heart aches that I felt the moment of impact when people died. They say 5-15 killed and over 160 injured. Pray for West, Texas.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ntech25
    I really hope that everyone is OK and it's horrible what happened. I heard on the news that the explosion was so big that it would have registered as a 2.5M earthquake.
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  • Profile picture of the author wlasikiewicz
    Originally Posted by SteveJohnson View Post

    My first thought was, "Oh, no, not again."

    This was just a horrific accident. Dozens Killed, Hundreds Injured In Fertilizer Plant Explosion « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth
    The US is not having any luck this week. On one side they have a home grown terrorist and a really bad accident on the other.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      I decided to check the news last night and then was glued to the screen by the tragedy in Texas.

      I was impressed at the response of the people there - the efficiency in setting up triage and staging and the help that poured in from firefighters to medical personnel.

      I've always known fertilizer plants were dangerous but didn't realize how dangerous or what a wide area could be affected.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ephrils
    This has been a horrible week. I'm glad the plant explosion was an accident, but this is a lot more than we're used to having... in a whole year. It feels like the world is going mad.
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  • Profile picture of the author whateverpedia
    I'm hearing that the factory had been fined in the past over "safety issues".
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      That's what I mentioned earlier in this thread. They had been fined several years ago - more than one agency had found problems there.

      But what is the point of having oversight agencies like EPA, OSHA, traffic admin, etc - if all they do is point and fine? When questioned a few years ago about safety, the plant owners issued a statement saying there was no danger and things were fine. That was accepted and there have been no follow-up inspections for safety for the past several years.

      Complaints of workers and those in the area about ammonia fumes were not apparently taken seriously.

      The focus of the EPA has changed from stopping practices that can harm the environment to issuing regulations on policies to influence global warming and promote alternative energy and other potential issues that are P.C. OSHA funding has been reduced and the agency is not held accountable for worker safety these days.

      This was true in the Gulf of Mexico on oil rigs in 2010 - and it's just as true today. In Texas, plant owners will be fined and held accountable at some point - but the agencies responsible for insuring safety will not have to answer for their failures.

      Accidents can and do happen - but when a plant has problems that are known and reported...is it really an accident?
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      • Profile picture of the author whateverpedia
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        Accidents can and do happen - but when a plant has problems that are known and reported...is it really an accident?
        Sounds like, to my non-legally trained mind, to be a clear cut case of negligence. Also to my non-legally trained mind, I think that the culprit(s) will be able to declare bankruptcy and walk away from any compensation/damages claims.

        Health and safety issues seem to be another one of these regulations that are "stifling" business, and "need to be watered down, if not abandoned completely". I'm assuming that there was no union presence at that factory, because OH&S is one thing that unions have done well in the past.
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  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    EPA doesn't go after large corps anymore. It's about as much use as the FDA now.

    Here's one the conspiracy theorists missed on. I've seen them posting videos of the explosion - and thinking the building (and fire) is hit by something incoming from the left a split second before the explosion. It does LOOK like that -- but that's just back draft from the fire. They do that. If you've ever watched a forest fire, when the fire gets to a clearing it does the same thing. It may look like something is being tossed into it, but it's not. If the video would have cut over about 40 or 50 feet to the left, it wouldn't have looked suspicious.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      If the video would have cut over about 40 or 50 feet to the left, it wouldn't have looked suspicious.
      Can't do that - you ruin the whole conspiracy theory

      A fire (wonder what caused the initial fire), ammonia fumes, fertilizer dust and natural gas....wow, not a building I'd want to spend time in.
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      • Profile picture of the author TimPhelan
        I believe they were burning wooden pallets which seems like a great idea to do in a fertilizer plant.
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post


        A fire (wonder what caused the initial fire), ammonia fumes, fertilizer dust and natural gas....wow, not a building I'd want to spend time in.
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  • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
    My experience with OSHA is that they tend to focus on the minutiae instead of going after real problems. Many of their workplace regulations are dreamed up by desk-sitters and not people who have experience working in the field, and are totally impractical to implement. Did you know that it's actually a violation if you stand on the third rung down of an extension ladder?

    The cause of the explosion will probably get sorted out, and I'd lay odds that comes down to someone doing something stupid. Then again, it could turn out to be just the kind of unfortunate accident that happens when unrelated circumstances happen to converge, like the 'perfect storm'.

    EDIT: Didn't see Tim's post about burning pallets. That would sure put it in the 'doing something stupid' category.
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  • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
    Here's the danger of generalization, like "...the factory had been fined in the past over 'safety issues'".

    Records reviewed by The Associated Press show that the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined that the West Fertilizer Co. planned to transport anhydrous ammonia without making or following a security plan. An inspector also found that the plant's ammonia tanks weren't properly labeled. ( My Way News - Regulators fined Texas plant for safety violations )
    I seriously doubt the plant exploded because the tanks weren't 'properly labeled'.

    As for the ammonia smell, I mean, wow. The plant has uses ammonia. Do people think a refinery shouldn't smell a little like gasoline?

    Ammonia is a very toxic chemical, but it also has a high "whiff factor", in that it only takes an infinitesimal amount in the air in order for us to smell it. I don't see how a plant that uses a lot of it can escape from having the odor hover.
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  • Profile picture of the author whateverpedia
    Can't find the link to it now, but I read somewhere that one of the fines they got in the past was for a whopping $30 (thirty dollars!).

    They could (probably) cop a dozen of these fines every day and just pay it out of petty cash.

    If you're going to fine a corp for being naughty, make it hurt them.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      What does seem to be the case is there was more than anhydrous ammonia being stored there - not sure if firefighters had been informed of that.

      had informed a state agency in February that it was storing up to 270 tons of ammonium nitrate - the highly explosive chemical compound used in the domestic terror attack on the Oklahoma City federal building.The company's risk management plan, filed with the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, made no mention of ammonium nitrate.
      Texas fertilizer plant also stored explosive chemical used in Oklahoma City bomb - Open Channel
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