West Fertilizer Co. fined in 2006 by EPA

West explosion

Credit: WFAA

Fire burns unchecked at a residence near the site of a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas on April 17, 2013.

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by MATT GOODMAN

WFAA

Posted on April 18, 2013 at 3:05 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 18 at 10:14 AM

The fertilizer plant that exploded in West, Texas on Wednesday night was fined by the Environmental Protection agency in 2006 for failing to have a risk management plan that met federal standards, an EPA report shows. 

The $2,300 penalty was issued on August 14, 2006, records show. According to the EPA, a risk management plan is designed to ensure chemical accidents don't happen by having safeguards in place to prevent them.

Quoting from its website, a risk management plan "includes an executive summary, registration information, off-site consequence analysis, five-year accident history, prevention program and emergency response program."

The plant was not fined again by the EPA after that incident. 

According to construction permits submitted in November of that year, West Fertilizer Co. vowed to meet all standards expected for anhydrous ammonia storage tanks. The odorless gas would be stored in two 12,000 gallon permanent storage tanks. 

The permits vow an in-house inspection "once a day during normal business hours to ensure there are no" leaks of ammonia. Some of the safety measures it promised:  A physical barrier to protect tanks from vehicular collision; a device that makes sure the ammonia is vented to the main tank and not the atmosphere;  area near tanks would be equipped with a water spray system in the event of an accidental release. 

It also vowed to fill the tanks to 85 percent capacity. 

Quoting from the permit, "The housekeeping requirements, protective barriers, daily inspections, handling requirements, and items related to the physical condition and security of the storage tanks represent current BACT requirements. This facility shall meet all BACT requirements expected for anhydrous ammonia storage tanks." 

The Dallas Morning News uncovered another EPA report revealing that West Fertilizer Co. reported the "worst possible scenario … would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would or injure no one." 

The cause of Wednesday night's explosion remains under investigation.

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