West explosion investigation completed by 10 May - Texas officials

01 May 2013 18:29  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--State Fire Marshal officials told legislators on Wednesday the agency intends on completing the investigation of the deadly explosion at West Fertilizer by 10 May.

Speaking to the state’s Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, the state agency said while no cause has been determined, the multi-agency investigative team is continuing to dig through a 14.9 mile area trying to locate and review the remains of the 17 April blast which killed 14 and injured 200.

"We literally have to sift through all the soil and all the items that exploded out of the plant, collect those, try to reconstruct the facility. We are well down that path," said State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy.

A joint force consisting of the Texas Fire Marshall Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have been working diligently over the past two weeks and at this point, have not yet made a determination on the fire, and subsequent explosion, beyond ruling out possible causes.

Officials have ruled out natural causes, such as lightening, as well as the company’s four tanks of anhydrous ammonia or a Union Pacific railcar that was initially thought to be containing ammonium nitrate as being factors in igniting the detonation.

The hearing was the first opportunity elected state officials have had to discuss and review the events of the explosion and to discuss how the state is overseeing facilities and plants that are involved with handling volatile chemicals and fertilizers.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials told the panel that currently there are more than 1,100 facilities that hold ammonium nitrate, which is still being viewed as a likely culprit in the destructive blast.

West Fertilizer had informed officials that the distributor could be in possession of as much as 270 tons of the chemical, which although an important crop nutrient for agricultural producers, it has been used in the past as a key ingredient to create deadly bombs.

Additionally, it was revealed to the panel that the state has 41 plants that are currently engaged in the blending of ammonium nitrate in the same manner that West Fertilizer was involved.  


By: Mark Milam



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