Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Lawyers
Explosions & Fires at Fertilizer Plants
The ingredients used to create fertilizer can be highly volatile—particularly ammonium nitrate, which has been used as an oxidizing agent in many explosive devices. Because of this risk, there are stringent safety regulations regarding fertilizer plants to lower the risk of plant explosions and fires. Unfortunately, this is not always enough. For example, in April 2013, the West Fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas exploded leaving more than 70 dead, hundreds severely injured and causing wide-spread property damage to the local community. Several buildings were damaged, burnt, and even collapsed, with some people still trapped inside.
This story took an unexpected turn three years later. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives revealed shocking news in May 2016: the fertilizer explosion was deliberate. While the U.S. Chemical Safety Board concluded that the explosion was ultimately preventable, the news that someone purposefully caused the destruction was a terrible blow to the community. The explosion, which caused a 2.1 magnitude earthquake, also resulted from the company's failure to take preventative safety measures that would have kept a fire and explosion from occurring.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed due to a fertilizer plant explosion or fire, regardless of whether they were employed there or were simply helping injured people, you deserve high-quality legal representation. At Arnold & Itkin LLP, we are committed to helping the victims of fertilizer plant explosions and believe firmly in the pursuit of justice. We have been successful in recovering billions of dollars on behalf of our clients.
Fertilizer is essential throughout America as the organic and inorganic matter used to supplement soil with added nutrients. Some statistics even estimate that anywhere up to half of all crops can be attributed to the use of fertilizer. There is no surprise then that it's a big business, especially in an agriculturally-based state like Texas. Organic fertilizers have long been utilized on traditional farms; however, the industrial revolution kick-started the use of chemically-synthesized inorganic fertilizers. This revolution was not without risks as evidenced by the number of people injured in factories each year. The manufacture of fertilizer must be balanced with strict safety.
Understanding the Manufacturing Process of Fertilizer
Today, synthetic fertilizers are composed of three main compounds: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen is used to help with the synthesis of proteins, nucleic acids, and hormones; phosphorous is used to provide the necessary energy for most metabolic chemical reactions and to help increase plant growth; potassium is used in protein synthesis and several other major plant processes. Other secondary substances which are put into fertilizer include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, as well as micronutrients, such as iron, chlorine, copper, manganese, and zinc. Since these secondary compounds are more often found in soil naturally, they are used in much lower quantities.
Throughout the nation, manufacturing factories have popped up to help produce these new and improved compound fertilizers. Although the production process will vary, there are several steps which are used. For example, in regards to the nitrogen fertilizer component, ammonia is produced and, in some cases, will be converted into nitric acid for more ease in handling. Both nitric acid and ammonia are then used to create ammonium nitrate, which serves as a part of the foundation for the fertilizer.
There are similar methods for the production of the phosphorous and potassium components. Once each of these has been made into a usable, solid form, they are stored until ready for the final step. To create the final product, all of these are granulated and blended, with the method of granulation varying based on the plant. In some cases, the components will be placed into a large, rotating drum tilted on its axis. As the components shift within the drum, they pass through a screen. These small pieces are then coated with inert dust to lower the retention of moisture and, finally, dried. Once properly dried, all of the components are "blended" together per the manufacturer's recipe.
The Aftermath of Fertilizer Plant Fires & Explosions
In the previously referenced explosion of April 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency and local safety officials reported that the fertilizer plant presented no documented risk of fire or explosion. Unfortunately, over 200 people were injured and victims ranged in age from infants to the elderly. An estimated 75-100 homes and businesses surrounding the area were completely destroyed, leaving the terrified residents of West, Texas (a small city near Waco, Texas) horrified.
If you are looking to discuss your case, or if you would like to schedule your free, confidential consultation, please do not hesitate to contact the firm today. You can also take advantage of our online consultation form.