US' CSB says gov't agencies hinder probe on West Fertilizer blast

22 May 2013 07:25  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is accusing two government agencies of interfering with its investigation into the West Fertilizer blast in Texas on 17 April, and sought the help of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the issue.

In a letter sent on Tuesday the senate committee, CSB chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso claimed that The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) did not allow CSB proper access to the site and to related witnesses in the lethal explosion at the fertilizer distribution facility in West, Texas.

Senator Barbara Boxer, who chairs the environment and public works committee, had said in late April that she intended to hold a hearing on the West Fertilizer explosion and determine what gaps exist in the enforcement of chemical regulations and safety laws.

CSB, however, alleged that the lack of cooperation from the two other agencies has left it unable to determine the cause of the massive blast the killed 15, injured 200 and caused an estimated $100m (€78m) in damage when ammonium nitrate stored at the facility caught fire and exploded.

It also cited that during the investigation by federal and state officials, heavy equipment utilized to uncover evidence did damage to materials that could have potentially allowed the CSB to find the cause of the fire and subsequent explosion.

Last week, ATF and SFMO announced that the incident was still under investigation as the cause of the West Fertilizer explosion had not been determined despite ruling out several possible causes such as weather and arson.

ATF officials were directing all inquiries to the SFMO which has yet to issue any statement on the matter, while Boxer as of late Tuesday had not issued a public comment.

($1 = €0.78)

By: Mark Milam
+1 713 525 2653

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