Charred Waxahachie plant blended fracking chemicals

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on October 4, 2011 at 9:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 4 at 11:15 PM

Magnablend fire location

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NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

WAXAHACHIE — As North Texans watched fire burn at the Magnablend plant in Waxahachie on Monday, EPA officials said no harmful chemicals had been detected in the air.

But News 8 has learned the plant operations may have been more dangerous than its management has let on.

Up until late Tuesday, about all Scott Pendery, the owner of Magnablend Inc., was telling the public was this particular facility produced was agriculture and oil and gas products. The only specific chemicals being mentioned were mostly harmless or marginally volatile.

But when pressed, the owner began telling another story.

Most of what the plant was producing was a dangerous cocktail of chemicals blended specifically to be used in hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") fluids.

As rivers of flammable product flushed out of the Magnablend plant on Monday, all that mattered was that the workers and firefighters escaped with their lives.

A day later, local, state and federal officials began investigating what started the fire — and what all was burning.

And while plant owner Pendery told a news conference Tuesday that he thinks an electrical spark may have touched off the inferno, he was less specific about what exactly was going on inside at the time.

"I don't want to reach out and try to suggest exactly what each employee was doing at that time," Pendery said. "There's a variety of events that go on in that plant."

As for all the explosions and the river of fire, News 8 asked Pendery if combustible petroleum products were involved.

"We have mineral oil in that plant, yes we do; there's mineral oil at that facility," Pendery said. "Mineral oil, choline chloride, various products like that."

The only sign that much more volatile chemicals might have been involved are affixed to the sides of eight railroad tanker cars that News 8 photographed that were parked next to the charred facility.

According to the hazardous materials placards on seven of the eight tankers, each was filled at one time with materials frequently found in chemicals commonly used in the fracking industry:

  • Chemical 1814: Potassium Hydroxide
  • Chemical 1268: Petroleum distillates
  • Chemical 1760: a highly corrosive liquid such as hydrochloric acid

When pressed, Pendery confirmed this particular facility was producing fracking compounds used in natural gas drilling.

"And so some of those products that we make in that plant do get used in that application," the Magnablend owner conceded. "Company-wide, we're probably in the 80 percentile with the oil and gas industry, and then the balance is the agriculture industry."

Later, when we tried to ask Pendery about specific chemicals parked in the tanker cars next to his facility, he ignored our questions and got back into his car without comment.

Waxahachie Fire-Rescue Chief David Hudgins told News 8 he was not aware that 80 percent of what Magnablend produces is fracking chemicals.

EPA officials said they had no idea what Magnablend was producing at the plant.

While it's legal to blend fracking chemicals, federal law states if enough dangerous chemicals are being stored on site, then the company must file a risk management plan.

No such plan has been filed for this facility.

Local, state and federal authorities continue their investigation.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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