The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has determined that the April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in Texas "resulted from an intense fire in a wooden warehouse building that led to the detonation of approximately 30 tons of [ammonium nitrate] stored inside in wooden bins." CSB reported that the building also contained significant amounts of combustible seeds, which likely contributed to the fire's intensity. These and other preliminary findings from CSB's investigation were recently released and are available on the agency's investigation page for the West, Texas, explosion.
The West Fertilizer explosion is "[a tragedy] of the kind that should be prevented," U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said during testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last Thursday. The massive explosion and fire at the plant fatally injured 15 people and caused hundreds of other injuries.
Moure-Eraso told Congress that "the CSB has determined that ammonium nitrate fertilizer storage falls under a patchwork of U.S. safety standards and guidance – a patchwork that has many large holes," highlighting the lack of federal, state, or local rules restricting the storage of large amounts of ammonium nitrate near homes, schools, and hospitals. CSB's preliminary findings note that many of the existing safety provisions for ammonium nitrate written by the National Fire Protection Association and the International Code Council are "quite old and appear to be confusing or contradictory, even to code experts," and, following the West explosion and other recent accidents, are in need of review.
Read more of CSB's preliminary findings about the West Fertilizer accident or view Moure-Eraso's full congressional testimony from June 27.
Photo credit: Chris Maddaloni.