What Texas Plant Didn't Reveal to Homeland Security

'A god awful amount of ammonium nitrate'

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 20, 2013 4:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – A lack of sprinklers and fire walls wasn't the only safety issue at the Texas fertilizer plant that exploded, killing at least 14 and injuring hundreds, on Wednesday: West Fertilizer had failed to report the 270 tons of ammonium nitrate it was storing to the Department of Homeland Security, reports Reuters. Plants are required to notify DHS when they're storing more than 400 lbs of the potentially explosive chemical—the Texas plant had 1,350 times that amount. "That's just a god awful amount of ammonium nitrate," says a hazardous chemicals consultant.

DHS helps plants with large amounts of ammonium nitrate create safety and security plans, but because companies like West Fertilizer must self-report, many may remain off the grid. "We understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up," says Congressman Bennie Thompson.

The remains of the the fertilizer plant smolder in the rain on Thursday, April 18, 2013, in West, Texas. A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed as many as 15 people and injured more than 160, officials said overnight.  The explosion that struck around 8 p.m. Wednesday,...
The remains of the the fertilizer plant smolder in the rain on Thursday, April 18, 2013, in West, Texas. A massive explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. killed as many as 15 people and injured more than...   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
In this Instagram photo provided by Andy Bartee, a plume of smoke rises from a fertilizer plant fire in West, Texas on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
In this Instagram photo provided by Andy Bartee, a plume of smoke rises from a fertilizer plant fire in West, Texas on Wednesday, April 17, 2013.   (AP Photo/Andy Bartee)
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