US state governors urged to take action on ammonium nitrate

09 July 2013 20:41  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works urged state governors on Tuesday to take action to prevent explosions of ammonium nitrate (AN) as occurred in the deadly 17 April blast at a storage facility in West, Texas, that left 14 dead.

In a letter signed by committee chairperson Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California), the committee urged governors to “review the applicable requirements in your state, and in the interests of saving lives, adopt policies that you believe will prevent loss of life while allowing the use of ammonium nitrate with appropriate protections or the use of alternatives”.

“Chemical explosions can have tragic consequences, but best practices can prevent disasters,” wrote Boxer in the letter.

Testifying before the Boxer-led committee on 27 June, US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said that the disaster at the West Fertilizer facility began with a fire of unknown origin in one of the facility’s warehouses, and it soon ignited some 30 tonnes of fertilizer-grade AN.

In his remarks, he said that the West facility lacked a sprinkler system or other systems to automatically detect or suppress fire. Also, the AN was stored in combustible wooden bins, and they were near significant amounts of combustible seeds in the same warehouse.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Boxer promised to keep her committee focused on the safety issues involving chemical storage because “the federal government isn’t doing enough right now”.

“We have the information, the information’s power, and the people who have power need to do something about this,” she said.

Boxer asked for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update its alert on AN. Its last alert was issued in 1997, she said.

Also, she asked that the EPA update its risk management planning requirements by adding AN to them so that the chemical will be required to be “stored under safe conditions”.

Another hearing looking into the West Fertilizer blast, as well as the deadly 13 June Williams Olefins explosion in Geismar, Louisiana, will be held in September or October, Boxer said.

“We have to act to ensure that more families don’t suffer the lost of a loved one in another chemical disaster,” she said.

By: Jeremy Pafford
+1 713 525 2653

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