By JACK KASKEY
National regulations on the handling and storage of ammonium
nitrate fertilizer are needed to avoid the type of massive
explosion that last year killed 14 people in West, Texas, the
US Chemical Safety Board said.
The April 17 explosion was preventable, Chairman
Rafael Moure-Eraso told reporters. The 40 tons to 60 tons of
ammonium nitrate that ignited were stored in a wooden
building and bins, rather than concrete, with no modern fire
suppression equipment, he said.
al Protection Agency
and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration need to
regulate fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate as an explosive,
Moure-Eraso said. The EPA can use its authority to require
safer blends and technologies, he said. Another 1,351 US facilities
store the material.
This hazard exists in hundreds of locations across the
United States, Moure-Eraso said. There is no
substitute for an efficient regulatory system that ensures
that all companies are operating to the same high
McLennan County, where the explosion occurred, didnt
have a fire code because Texas prohibits smaller counties
from having one, Johnnie Banks, the boards lead
investigator, told reporters. The farm retailer also
wasnt included in the countys emergency response
plan, he said.
The community clearly was not aware of the potential
hazard, Banks said.
The retailer was built in an open field in 1961 and land- use
codes failed to keep pace as new homes, schools and other
structures were built closer and closer, he said.
Volunteer firefighters such as the ones who died fighting the
West fire also need mandatory response training, and all
firefighters need to have access to accurate information on
hazards in buildings to which they respond, Moure-Eraso said.