The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) announced that its root-cause investigation of the ammonium nitrate explosion at West Fertilizer in West, Texas, is ongoing; the agency is in the process of conducting witness interviews and gathering evidence related to the explosion. A recent press release states that CSB has already documented blast damage and patterns in the community and that the investigative team plans to test chemical samples and conduct a thorough analysis of the nature and magnitude of the explosion, as well as the actual and potential causes of the blast. Following are some of the "areas of inquiry" that CSB lists as elements to be included in its investigation:
- ammonium nitrate safe handling and storage standards in the U.S. and in other countries, such as the U.K. and Australia
- land use planning and zoning practices for high-hazard facilities in relation to schools, public facilities, and residential areas
- ammonium nitrate detonation mechanisms
- the effectiveness of regulatory coverage, including OSHA, EPA, and state regulations
- whether there are inherently safer products or safer ways to store ammonium nitrate and mitigate the damage should a fire or explosion occur
"This accident produced far more offsite community damage and destruction than any we have investigated since [CSB] opened its doors in 1998," CSB Chairperson Moure-Eraso said. "We will release information and findings when possible as we continue our work, and in the end will issue a comprehensive root-cause report with recommendations. We also encourage members of the public and stakeholders to share information directly with the CSB as the investigation progresses."
The agency set up a Facebook page
administered by CSB's investigative team and staff to exchange information with the public about the investigation.