Texas fertilizer plant blast

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TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 18, 2013 - 01:30am PT
http://news.yahoo.com/police-report-fertilizer-plant-explosion-near-waco-texas-015859240.html



By Regina Dennis

WEST, Texas (Reuters) - Hundreds of people were likely injured in a fiery explosion on Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas, that damaged or destroyed numerous buildings including a school and nursing home, authorities said.

The blast was reported at about 8 p.m. CDT (0100 GMT on Thursday) in West, a town of some 2,700 people about 80 miles south of Dallas and 20 miles north of Waco.

"It's a lot of devastation. I've never seen anything like this," said McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara. "It looks like a war zone with all the debris."

There was no immediate official word on what sparked the explosion as emergency personnel assisted victims and doused the flames.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, D.L. Wilson, told Reuters the blast had probably caused "hundreds of casualties" and damaged many homes. He added that a nearby nursing home had collapsed from the explosion and that people were believed trapped inside.

McNamara said the nursing home and much of the center of town had been evacuated, and that residences near the explosion had been leveled.

The air in town remained thick with smoke more than two hours after the explosion, and the area around the blast site was littered with shards of wood, bricks and glass.

A Reuters reporter observed that a nearby middle school and several homes were severely burned. Dallas television station WFAA reported from helicopters that roughly a three-block area of West appeared to have been destroyed.

More than 100 people were being taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, said vice president of hospital operations David Argueta.

Hillcrest CEO Glenn Robinson told CNN that the hospital was seeing "everything from orthopedic injuries to patients that are experiencing serious blood loss."

Governor Rick Perry issued a statement saying his office had "mobilized state resources to help local authorities" deal with the incident.

A White House official said the Obama administration was aware of the situation and monitoring local and state response through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The explosion came two days before the 20th anniversary of a fire in Waco that engulfed a compound inhabited by David Koresh and his followers in the Branch Davidian sect, ending a siege by federal agents.

Some 82 members of the sect and four federal agents died at Waco.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman, Tim Gaynor and David Bailey; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)


moosedrool

climber
Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Apr 18, 2013 - 01:35am PT
Tragedy. My sympathy to the victims.

Let's not turn this into another politard thread.
shady

Trad climber
hasbeen
Apr 18, 2013 - 02:06am PT
Oh crap, just got off google maps. Looks like there were a lot of people living really close to that plant.
I'm hoping for a better out-come than what I fear.

Edit: Just saw a short phone video. (restate above comment)
Edit: In response to Moosedrools request: (restate above comment)
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Apr 18, 2013 - 10:11am PT
Oh jeez..this is going to be truly shocking. Many first responders appear to be casualties. I hope the best for those in our ST community who may be affected.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 10:16am PT
Left sidebar of the story is interesting.

http://www.kwtx.com/home/headlines/Explosion-Injuries-Reported-At-West-Fertilizer-Plant-203505331.html

It seems to be regularly updated.

Just before I posted it it was twice as long with little details like the HD in an adjacent town staying open 24 hrs for emergency supplies.

healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:08am PT
You never know until after an investigation, but looking at the upkeep of the property and tank roofs it looks somewhat lax, or at least like there wasn't a heavy emphasis on organization, security, or maintenance. That's not necessarily atypical of some rural Ag ops such as grain storage facilities which also go up explosively with some regularity.

I suspect now that they are on the radar, Homeland Security will be putting out security directives for these plants given many like this one allow easy access to a lot of explosive material. The other problem with a lot of these plants is they have to be on rail lines and so ended up being located in town for convenience. Some towns might think twice about that after this blast as there would be less incentive to put a lot of folks and first responders at risk fighting a fire around explosives if the plant wasn't right in town..
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:18am PT
Not saying it is definitely or even probably terrorism but both this fertilizer plant and Boston are right out of the Al Quaeda handbook. And given the divisive state of our country the most effective thing for the perps to do would be remain silent as we americans look and even point at each other. Instead of antagonistically celebrating our diversity we should be looking at our conformity as Americans. Were sitting on a powder keg in this country-just saying maybe it's not the smartest place to be....
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:19am PT
Pretty shocking that it was located so close to town. However, it might be
more correct that town located so close to it which is almost certainly true
in the case of the apartment building. I guess folks in Texas don't have
very long memories or they felt Waco was far enough away from Texas City
that it wasn't contagious. That disaster, also fertilizer, in 1947 is still
the worst with at least 567 dead and more than 5000 injured.

"Sightseeing airplanes flying nearby had their wings shorn off,[4] forcing
them out of the sky. Ten miles away, people in Galveston were forced to
their knees; windows were shattered in Houston, Texas, 40 miles (60 km)
away. People felt the shock 100 miles away in Louisiana." Wiki

Oh, and the date of the Texas City disaster? 16 April 1947
pud

climber
Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:24am PT
healyle,

ATFB knows all too well about the lack of security at these facilities.
DHS has not provided nearly enough data or man hours to address this issue despite their $60,000,000 annual budget.

The chemicals and agents needed for the type of blast seen in this instance is available to ag producers but never stored within transfer zones.
Something is wrong with this picture.


edit:
btw, your signature may not be on that $60m check but, you're financing it.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:24am PT
Dang,, prayers to the affected!!!!
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 18, 2013 - 12:38pm PT
Pud, DHS 'knows' about all kinds of things, but breaking up the priority list to the status of something actionable is another deal altogether.

That's a grade school at the bottom center of the photo...
That's a grade school at the bottom center of the photo...
Credit: healyje
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 12:52pm PT
It took about 1 minute to find out that the company produces ammonium nitrate fertilizer and has been around for 55 years.
The process is inherently dangerous.
Looks like they also fill and lease anhydrous ammonia trailers to farmers, probably more of a realistic danger to live next door to.
From the looks of the remains of old foundations on the property it's been in that location all long.

This is a case of a small town growing where it shouldn't have.

The plant was there before most of the rest of the town. For sure the apartments and schools.
Dave Kos

Social climber
Temecula
Apr 18, 2013 - 12:54pm PT
Somebody has to be held accountable.

TGT,

How 'bout you post some photos of the people who may or may not be owners of the plant?
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 01:13pm PT
If you have something to bitch about take it up with the NY Post.

Problem with someone to blame in this Texas town is that those that were responsible may be long out of office and recently dead.

steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
Apr 18, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
The plant had a HUGE pressurized tank of Anhydrous Ammonia.

Under normal circumstances this substance is NOT explosive; however, in concentrations over 20%, mixed with oxygen, it may explode.
Given the raging fire, I assume the tanks reached their failure limit, and obviously high concentrations would instantly be created in the atmosphere.

My guess is this is what caused the explosion, rather than ammonium nitrate, which was not mentioned.
Onewhowalksonrocks

Mountain climber
In the middle of the ocean
Apr 18, 2013 - 02:46pm PT
I think it was the cows. They are standing up against the MAN!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Apr 18, 2013 - 02:51pm PT
Just saw some vid of it... PRAYERS go out to the MANY! The blast was felt 80 miles away....Sending cyber yellow roses to Texas!
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
In the photo there are three Ammonia tankers and a bunch of field size Trailer tanks to the south.

the reason I'm suspecting Ammonium Nitrate manufacture is it looks like there's an acid tank farm right in the middle and storage silos for dry product.

Who knows how old that image is though.

News reports mention a railroad tank car.

Hard to tell for sure from the angle, but it looks like the fire and explosion were in the large round structure that could house a drying operation. It couldn't be used for storing ammonia. The codes and pressure vessels are identical to those for LP gas. The ammonia would be in the long cylindrical pressure vessels.


golsen

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
From teh videos there was a fire first, then it does appear that the tanks (under increasing pressure) blew. Amomnia is very hazardous, I believe IDLH around 20ppm (can't find my book).

Ammonia Nitrate is also an explosive.

This happens when teh EPA is celebrating 25 years of EPCRA, Community Right to know Laws.

http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/epcra/

I have worked around the most hazardous substances on the face of the earth and can only offer up that people do not realize just how hazardous some of these places are, nor do they understand the shoe string budgets for safety. One of my first jobs was at a KOCH brothers plant , made Sulfuric Acid and it was built in the 40's. I got out of there as fast as I could. It was more dangerous there than the plant where we destroyed WMD's filled with nerve agent.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:19pm PT
Anhydrous ammonia is almost as bad as chlorine gas. Nasty, nasty stuff!

The really scary thing is how many consulting engineers don't understand basics, like the difference between anhydrous and ammonium hydroxide.

Don't get me started on the dumb things we've seen done with peroxide systems and polymer catalizers.

Dover

Trad climber
New England
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:41pm PT
Pretty shocking that it was located so close to town. However, it might be
more correct that town located so close to it which is almost certainly true
in the case of the apartment building.

The was also a nearby nursing home that was affected along with houses. Seems like basic land use and zoning considerations were discounted here.
Gene

climber
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
Seems like basic land use and zoning considerations were discounted here.

It's Texas. Here's part of their zoning ordinance.

Sec. 14.01.002 Residential and commercial properties; zoning board; rezoning procedure
(a) Residential and commercial zoning. All real property within the city limits is hereby zoned to be used for residential purposes only, except the following:

(1) All real property heretofore used for commercial purposes;

(2) All real property that is used 50 percent of the time as commercial property shall remain commercial property.

g
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:49pm PT
Yeah, N Y Post, riiiiiiight!

They just published pictures of the marathon bombing suspects, except,.................... they used the wrong photos and fingered an innocent runner and his coach!
Dover

Trad climber
New England
Apr 18, 2013 - 03:55pm PT
Here's part of their zoning ordinance.

Not much there, is there? Hopefully one positive thing that comes out of this is safer location of hazmat plants like this.
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 04:02pm PT
Yeah, N Y Post, riiiiiiight!

Turns out they got it from CNN
dave729

Trad climber
Western America
Apr 18, 2013 - 04:13pm PT
Spring time field prep means all the local Texas farmers were getting their
fertilizer from there.

Tanker delivery trucks arriving, getting filled up and driving away all day long.

Big hoses getting connected and disconnected from the trucks. Pumps roaring. Nasty smells and end of day boredom and carelessness?

And maybe some spillage and a spark on the transfer pad. Woooosh!!!!!!!!!!


training video for this so called B.L.E.V.E.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UM0jtD_OWLU


Gene

climber
Apr 18, 2013 - 06:15pm PT
WEST, Texas — About 35 people, including 10 first responders, were killed in the Texas fertilizer company explosion Wednesday night, West Mayor Tommy Muska said in an interview with USA TODAY

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/18/waco-texas-plant-explosion/2092769/

Gene

climber
Apr 18, 2013 - 06:28pm PT
Here's the plant with the apartments to the west.

Credit: Gene

Apartments before...
Credit: Gene

Apartments after...
Credit: Gene

Credit: Gene

This is horrible.

g

EDIT: It looks like the bearing walls are concrete block. More deadly than Doug Fir in a blast.
Dover

Trad climber
New England
Apr 18, 2013 - 06:36pm PT
Wow. Very sad.
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Apr 18, 2013 - 07:09pm PT

I wonder if the occupant of the vehicle that was filming
the blast was hurt badly. I can't imagine they weren't. . .
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
Apr 18, 2013 - 07:40pm PT
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_nitrate_disasters
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Apr 18, 2013 - 07:44pm PT
Thoughts go out to those first responders now missing or dead as well....
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 18, 2013 - 10:58pm PT
Five years earlier, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the company $2,300 for not even having a risk management plan in place and for other problems, including poor employee training and lack of a formal maintenance plan.

Last year, the company agreed to pay a $5,250 fine to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for storing ammonia in improperly marked tanks and for transporting the material without a security plan.

And that's exactly how the site looks in the sat photos - lax maintenance, no big deal.

Hopefully these facilities will now be moved up or down the tracks a mile of two in similar towns. Shouldn't be that big a deal to empty a few tanks at the end of the season. And that would be a good, productive use for DHS funds - move and secure all these facilities, institute stringent operating and maintenance standards, and show shabby operators the door.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:16pm PT
My town has a big propane storage facility, 2 big tanks a few stories tall. Used to be? Twas zoned such that no residential building was allowed nearby.

Then came the era of real estate greed of the 2000s. County board of sups? CROOKED SONSABITCHES EVERYONE BOUGHT AND OWNED BY DEVELOPERS.

They rezoned that area and allowed several hundred homes to be built within the potential blast zone.

Morons. And the people who bought there? Some thought they were water tanks.

Now yall might say Caveat Emptor and you would be right. But goddamnit we the people have government for a reason and zoning is a BIG DEAL.

Goddamn but it makes me mad. The folks who allowed those homes and that plant to be next to each other should be tried for malfeasance.

DMT
TGT

Social climber
So Cal
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:20pm PT
Shouldn't be that big a deal to empty a few tanks at the end of the season. And that would be a good, productive use for DHS funds

You've never been in a chemical plant have ya.


Government agencies have an even worse record about these kinds of things.

I'm just finished for now working a project for now that has been a superfund site ever since there was such a thing and still isn't close to being cleaned up. It's a tough site, but bureaucratic ineptness has interfered ever since the 70's. The technology being mandated for cleanup was obsolete 30 years ago.

At least now though there isn't acid running down the streets every time there's a heavy rain, eating the wheels off of parked cars.


healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:45pm PT
Yeah, actually doing stretches of process control work I have, lots of them. These are hardly 'chemical plants'. It's four tanks and two light industrial buildings - moving the whole shebang would be absolutely trivial by 'chemical plant' standards.
golsen

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Apr 18, 2013 - 11:58pm PT
Healyje,

while it is telling that this plant was not in compliance with the EPA for having a Risk Management Plan, I am very interested to see what the Chemical Safety Board finds. Here is my prediction: This plant will almost certainly have violated some parts of OSHA 29CRFR1910.119, Process Safety Management for Highly Hazardous Chemicals (assuming there is any evidence found). This regulation is really the nuts and bolts that would help to prevent an accident.

Unfortunately, I doubt that OSHA has the budget to inspect all of these mom and pop facilities. Furthermore, the great state of Texas may have primacy over the OSHA regs meaning they may or may not have been enforced.

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9760

I have been trained and worked in this area for about 10 years and it blows my mind at the complacency exhibited by some major companies. Throw a mom and pop company into the mix and I doubt they have the resources to fulfill these regulatory requirements.

It will be interesting to see if they even have a Chemical Engineer or a Chemist on staff, I doubt it.
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 19, 2013 - 06:41pm PT
I worked for USEPA Hqts for many years, designing software for the On Scene Coordinators (OSCs) and Remedial Program Managers (RPMs), and scoring Superfund sites for the National Priority List (NPL) under the CERCLA/RCRA Hazard Ranking System (HRS) rules, and doing 3D models of plume dispersion using sample management from major SF sites in support of DOJ cases against the Principle Responsible Parties (PRPs). The longer I worked there the more concerned I became for the health of our home planet.

Then I supported similar work for the BRAC (DoD Base Realignment Commission)...oh my...

Then I started doing similar work for the DOE National Labs. After working on those for a few years, I didn't worry so much about EPA sites.

Then I went and spent ten years at NASA, managing supercomputers for global climate modeling, designing software for flight controllers managing the International Space Station, and as a member of the systems engineering team for returning to the moon and on towards Mars. Quoting senior astronaut John Young (two Gemini missions, two Apollo missions to the moon, first person to fly the Space Shuttle): "We have to get off this planet, and we have to get off fast!"

I met with an astronaut who had just returned from a six-month tour as commander of the International Space Station. He commented that the main thing we have learned on the ISS is that we don't know how to make a life support system work. I replied that is also the main thing we have learned so far on Planet Earth (which actually should be named Planet Water).

No wonder people pray for miracles...
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Apr 20, 2013 - 09:22am PT
hey there say, folks...

was very sad to hear about this...
being from south texas, for a good part of my life,
i understood it was 'town should not have built there situation'--
from a few situations i have seen, in the past,
there, but sure wondered WHY no one understood the danger :O

thanks for sharing all the various information...
very sad, :(

condolences and prayers for the family and loved ones...
:(
moosedrool

climber
Stair climber, lost, far away from Poland
Apr 20, 2013 - 10:35am PT
With the government budget cuts, I am afraid we will see more hazardous disasters. Without constant presure and supervision people get too relaxed. I work (as a biochemist) around dangerous agents and have seen it many times. We have safety trainings periodically, and right after the training people obay the safety rules. After a few months everybody gets relaxed and safety rules get compromised.

If something bad may happen, it will happen.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Apr 20, 2013 - 10:51am PT
http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/19/17818046-texas-fertilizer-plant-also-stored-explosive-chemical-used-in-oklahoma-city-bomb?lite

No room for excuses, someone's to blame, but the human race continues.
philo

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:03am PT
We don't need all those onerous Federal Government safety regulations and pesky inspectors making life tough on our wonderful and oh so Patriotic "Job Creators". Yeah Right!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:17am PT
Don't see what all the fuss is about, afterall, it happened in Texas.

Texas.
locker

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:26am PT


"We don't need all those onerous Federal Government safety regulations and pesky inspectors making life tough on our wonderful and oh so Patriotic "Job Creators"....

Of course not Phil!!!...

ANY intelligent person should KNOW that Government Regulation is a total WASTE of hard earned money...

I mean, regulations???...

What for???...

philo

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:30am PT
Exactly Locker. Can you just imagine if the need to comply with those public safety regulations put a dent in Corporate profits or worse yet reduced the size of CEO bonuses? Oh the Horror, oh the HUMANITY! Free Market uber alles.
locker

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:43am PT


Next chance I get, I am voting to get rid of ALL Government Regulation!!!...

I'm also going to join the "Tea Party"...

I hear they have the best, Earl Gray...

Wade Icey

Trad climber
www.alohashirtrescue.com
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:47am PT
see ya
see ya
Credit: Mel Tormented
philo

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:48am PT
I'm also going to join the "Tea Party"...

I hear they have the best, Earl Gray...

And Crumpets too.
locker

Social climber
Some Rehab in Bolivia
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:50am PT


Wade to the rescue!!!...

LMAO!!!...

rottingjohnny

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Apr 20, 2013 - 11:58am PT
Don't get all Toxic Avenger-like on me TGT....! RJ
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