Texas Plant Told State It Could Not Explode
Governor Perry requests federal state of emergency
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Apr 18, 2013 2:50 PM CDT
This aerial photo shows a local school, at rear, and an apartment complex, at middle right, near a fertilizer plant explosion site, April 18, 2013, in Near West, Texas.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(Newser) – News outlets are digging into the West Fertilizer plant's regulatory filings and finding that, in light of the explosion that may have killed as many as 15 people and injured about 160, the plant might have undersold the risks a tad. While the company did tell regulators it had up to 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on hand, it said there was "no" fire or explosive risk, Fox News reports. It said the absolute worst-case scenario would be an essentially harmless 10-minute gas leak.

In other developments:

  • Rick Perry is asking the federal government to declare an emergency for the area, the Dallas Morning News reports. "Last night was truly a nightmare scenario," he said. " This tragedy has most likely hit every family and touched practically everyone in that town."
  • Three to four volunteer firefighters are among the missing, as is the West city secretary. The blast destroyed as many as 75 buildings. The streets of the town are carpeted with the glass of storefront windows, and one 50-unit apartment complex stands with its brick facade blown completely away.
  • Documents obtained by the Dallas Morning News indicate that regulators didn't issue a permit for the facility until after it was already in use, and that they were well aware of its proximity to homes and a school. Columnist Tod Robberson writes that the incident should be a wake-up call to cities to zone dangerous businesses more carefully. "Someone needs to be called to account," he writes.
  • KUT notes that the explosion falls almost directly on the 66th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster, a devastating explosion caused by a ship containing ammonium nitrate.

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Antagonist
Apr 19, 2013 10:05 PM CDT
"A harmless 10-minute gas leak" Anyone remember Bhopal? They had a little gas leak too.
Chiphantasy
Apr 19, 2013 2:15 PM CDT
"A harmless 10-minute gas leak", HUH! Anhydrous ammonia, such as is used in an ammonium nitrate plant, is both combustible and poisonous (although no one will voluntarily remain in a leak area long enough to be poisoned). I am a chemical engineer and worked in an ammonium nitrate plant. Everyone entering the plant was required to carry their own gas mask, and to demonstrate their ability to hold their breath long enough to get their gas mask on and adjusted. Our plant was far out in an unpopulated area. To put this plant in a populated area was, in my opinion, stupid. No blast wall is going to stop the explosion that we saw on the video. The only protection is space! Lots of space! If you ever see an ammonium nitrate plant burning, RUN! Pray that you are far enough away, and keep running!
K.KRANK
Apr 19, 2013 1:35 AM CDT
Nothing can explode. Explosions aren't possible.