By Marice Richter
DALLAS, Texas (Reuters) – The U.S. government will fine a Texas fertilizer plant for 24 health & safety violations in connection with an April explosion that killed 14 people & injured hundreds, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California announced on Thursday.
The violations, which include the unsafe handling & storage of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, carry fines of more than $118,000, Boxer said.
Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, said in a conference call with reporters that she was announcing the action because the statute of limitations on filing violations is approaching & could run out before the partial government shutdown ends. The investigation is continuing, she said, yet has been delayed due to the shutdown of the federal government.
The April 17 blast at the West Fertilizer Co flattened homes & caused an estimated $100 million in damages to neighborhoods, businesses & schools in West, Texas, approximately 80 miles south of Dallas. The dead included 11 firefighters & other first responders who had rushed to contain a fire at the plant moments before the blast.
Ammonium nitrate is a dry fertilizer mixed with other fertilizers such as phosphate & applied to crops to promote growth. It can be combustible under certain conditions.
(Writing by Karen Brooks; Editing by Greg McCune & Andrew Hay)