Troubling News Emerges from 2013’s West Fertilizer Plant Explosion
Aug 12, 2014
Although it has been over a year since the explosion at the West Fertilizer Company killed 15, new reports on the tragedy are still surfacing.
In the first official public health report, county officials have indicated that injuries were more severe than previously known. The report also suggests that many injuries may have been missed in the initial chaos following the explosion.
This new report, issued by the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, finds that more than one in five of those injured by the explosion experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussion.
The report also states “some injuries, particularly ear injuries as well as traumatic brain injury, may not have been identified at the time of medical treatment immediately after the explosion,” indicating that many of the injured may have left the hospital without proper treatment or instructions.
Ear injuries affected more than 10 percent of the injured.
Reese Dunklin of the Dallas Morning News has been reporting on a second issue: the latest moves by the Texas Department of State Health Services to keep basic information about chemical storage facilities away from the public.
In early July, the office of the Texas Attorney General informed reporters at the Dallas Morning News that the Department of State Health Services would no longer release information about chemical inventories to the public.
In a letter, the Attorney General stated that the decision was based on Texas Homeland Security statutes. Several federal agencies have spoken out against the withholding of information about potential chemical hazards.
In April of 2014, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board concluded that a lack of community awareness of the chemical hazard at the West facility contributed to the disaster. No emergency response plan was in place at the time of the explosion.
In the last few weeks, a new federal task force has publicly called for increased release of information about large chemical inventories. Such information would make it possible for local citizens and businesses to make effective emergency response plans based on real knowledge of the risks that surround them.