Let the cover-ups, excuses, lies and CYA charades begin. The horrific and deadly Boston Marathon blasts have dominated recent media coverage and for good reason considering it’s an iconic historic event and the twin-bombings carried out by 2 brothers had grave terrorists implications. The pair of Marathon explosions took place Monday, April 15.
There was another explosion two days later roughly 1,800 miles distant in a tiny town of 2,800, 20 miles outside of Waco, Texas. The name of the town was West, Texas and it was home to two companies owned by Donald Adair. There was the Adair Grain Co. and West Fertilizer Company.
At 6:30 in the evening local time, a fire was discovered in the Fertilizer facility. Local volunteer fire fighters rushed to the scene knowing that anhydrous ammonia and fire make a potentially lethal mix. They might have known something else that would have motivated them even more.
According to authorities, as late as last year (and I suspect possibly this year) the plant housed an incomprehensibly high quantity of ammonium nitrate as well; some 540,000 pounds of the stuff. This exceeded the quantity of Tim McVeigh’s Oklahoma City ANFO (Fuel oil) fertilizer bomb by a factor of 100. To put that amount in further perspective, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is supposed to be notified when plants hold a minimum of 400 lbs POUNDS of ammonium nitrate. The West Co. housed 270 TONS! That’s 1,350 times the red flag amount.
The company only filed its total tonnage with the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS). In turn that agency and Adair both said “screw the feds” and didn’t pass along that information to Homeland Security as, at least, Adair was legally required to do. Wouldn’t you think TDSHS, whether they were legally obligated to report to Homeland Security or not, would be responsible enough to alert DHS to such an obviously unsafe imbalance?
Apparently no federal agency has darkened West Fertilizer’s doors for many years. I’ve heard conflicting reports that OSHA hadn’t inspected for anywhere from 5-25 years. The state has essentially locked Washington out of its regulatory affairs. But when the president called from Air Force One, Governor Rick Perry jumped at the chance to spend federal money to sweep up the deadly remnants of the explosion. Remnants that included the collapsed roof and walls of an apartment complex, the destruction of at least 50 homes and other damage to church buildings, businesses, schools and infrastructure. Ever concerned, the president plans to attend a Thursday memorial service at Baylor University.
You’ll recall that Perry spent 90% of his time as a Republican Presidential aspirant ripping Barack Obama’s stimulus initiative and other spending requests. But, of course, that spending included poor people. Now that Perry needs to pick up the political pieces from his state’s vehement anti-regulation posture that will likely be directly implicated in the West tragedy, it’s a different story.
I’m mighty suspicious of the casualty numbers. Not the injured particularly. I believe there were around 200 people banged up from an explosion felt 40 to 50 miles away. I also believe there were more than 14 deaths, a number that Texas officials cling to tenaciously. I base my skepticism on two factors; early estimates and extensive damage. The initial estimates were higher than the final count. The first number I heard was 15, including 10 first-responders. Then the mayor of West said the death toll could reach 30 or 40. The local EMS Director put the number at as many as 60-70. Another source said there were 60 people who had abandoned their homes and had not been heard from. In fairness, that was a day or so ago, so they might have been in contact since then.
So after the 6:30 PM fire report, the explosion followed at 7:50 PM, give or take a minute or two. If these are accurate times, there’s no way in hell you could evacuate the surrounding area to the extent that only 4 residents would have died, given the initial count of 10 first-responders. Claims were made that 133 were evacuated from a nursing home and yet there were several people from that home treated after the blast. There were some people who didn’t get the word and, using your common sense, if the area was evacuated, how could there be as many as 200 people be injured? Again, I think some officials are being less than candid.
As ‘luck’ would have it, all files and documents relating to the fertilizer company were destroyed in the explosion. We know this about Donald Adair. We know he’s willing to stow a huge quantity of extraordinarily dangerous crap in his buildings. And was the ammonium nitrate in place for just one year? Or was it still there in some quantities last Wednesday? Not only was that part of the Oklahoma City mixture, but some might remember the 2001 French chemical plant explosion of the same mix that killed 31. The quantity of ammonium nitrate was about the same as that stored at West.
I would counsel Texas right-wingers not to get their panties in a wad. I went back and read the online comment section of a Dallas-Fort Worth TV station Website. Out of a total of 143 comments, I could find only 5 even mild rebukes of the state. One self-identified college student questioned why a “bomb-making plant would be within a few hundred yards of a daycare center, school and senior citizen’s complex. He was immediately called a moron for calling it a bomb-making center and told to get off his mom’s computer. Another contributor said “What a time in our history to have a boy president…” Most of those commenting called for prayer, but there was not a single mention of regulation review.
These typical responses in the wake of totally unnecessary death, destruction and serial regulatory irresponsibility on the part of state and national Texas elected officials are why Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz can be perfectly comfortable in their oversight indifference and saying they would “wait for more information about the explosion before considering whether there should be more regulation of anhydrous ammonia.”
There won’t be a single syllable changed in current state regulations and the national safety overseers will continue to be ignored, no matter the death count, because we’re “DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS!”