The deadly explosion at West Fertilizer Company's plant in Texas was preventable and lives could have been saved if gaps in existing state and federal regulation had been eliminated earlier, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board stated in its preliminary report on the explosion that killed 14 people a year ago.
The board stated that its investigation was focusing on areas in which federal, state and county regulations, guidelines and oversight could be improved. For example, there was no fire code at the state level, and some counties that have a small population are even banned from having one. The report pointed out that local fire departments need to have fire codes so that businesses are held accountable for the safe storage and handling of hazardous materials.
Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the Chemical Safety Board, stated that the devastating explosion and the fire that followed it could have been prevented if the company had not neglected its duty to take the necessary preventive measures. The report also blamed federal, state and local regulatory agencies for their inability to identify the risk and to eliminate the threat.
The board's supervisory investigator Johnnie Banks added that the report had identified a total of 1,351 facilities located across the United States that store ammonium nitrate. However, there is no reliable data on how close these are to residential areas or schools. The report called for a review of regulations and standards at all levels to prevent such disasters in future.