Chemical Board Plans Meeting in West

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) — A public meeting will be held in West, Texas next week by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to allow people to gain more insight and share comments on an ammonium nitrate explosion in their community a year earlier.

This comes ahead of the public release of the board’s report within the next few weeks about the huge explosion on April 17, 2013 that killed 15 people and injured more than 200 people.

The board has invited members of the public to the April 22 meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. local time at the Southside Community Center at 205 Tokio Road, according to a notice in the federal register.

The notice said the board will hear preliminary findings from the CSB’s investigation team into the fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Co.

"This public meeting is intended to provide the residents of West, Texas, and other members of the public with information into how this incident occurred and how similar future incidents can be prevented or mitigated," the notice stated. "The CSB has invited several stakeholders in the emergency response community to provide their insights into this incident."

Following presentations from CSB staff and an expert panel, the board will take public comments. According to the notice, the board also will be accepting written comments.

"All staff presentations are preliminary and are intended solely to allow the board to consider in a public forum the issues and factors involved in this case," stated the notice. "No factual analyses, conclusions, or findings presented by staff should be considered final."

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating accidents and hazards that result in the catastrophic release of hazardous substances.

The agency’s board members are appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

CSB investigations typically look into all aspects of chemical accidents including physical causes and inadequacies in regulations, industry standards and safety management systems.

Texas State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy told DTN that his agency is slated to release its report sometime in May, outlining the firefighter actions taken in West. Prior to the release of that report, he said, the department will present the findings to families of the victims and area fire chiefs and others.

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