How Texas' deadly fertilizer fire hasn't changed Washington
A railroad boxcar filled with ammonium nitrate lays on its side near to the remains of the fertilizer plant that exploded the day prior in West, Texas.
Kirk Wines owns Old Corner Drug in West, Texas. He lives near the fertilizer plant that exploded in April.
"I was 300 yards away when it blew up," Wines recalls.
14 people who were closer died in the blast. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board blames the tragedy on lax oversight. And the federal agency, which investigates chemical accidents, is slated to hold a public meeting in Washington Thursday to rebuke the Occupational Safety & Health Administration for not adopting safety recommendations that might have averted the West, Texas, explosion.
In Senate testimony last month, Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the Chemical Saftey Board, criticized OSHA for not regulating the safekeeping of the chemical that triggered the explosion and for not visiting the Texas fertilizer plant in years.
"OSHA has not focused extensively on ammonium nitrate storage and hadn’t inspected West since 1985," he said.
But Wines, the pharmacist, doesn't believe that better regulation would have prevented the disaster in his town.
"I think this was a freak accident. It's just one of those things that happened," he says. And, he doesn't want federal regulators more involved in the town's business.
OSHA told Marketplace that it wouldn't comment on an ongoing investigation. The Chemical Safety Board didn't return calls ahead of today's meeting, where it's expected to push again for tighter controls of hazardous chemicals.