“We’re going house to house, business to business,” Swanton said. “I think we’re going to see fatalities increase.” The explosion, he said, “reached blocks, if not miles, in its devastating effect.”
State officials “are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident,” Perry said in a statement Wednesday night. “We have also mobilized state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene.”
The Environmental Protection Agency fined the facility $2,300 in 2006 for having a deficient risk management plan, according to the agency.
The EPA “found a number of deficiencies” with the retail facility during its March 16, 2006, inspection, according to agency spokeswoman Alisha Johnson. They included a failure to update the plan, which was due two years earlier; a failure to address the hazards identified in the company’s safety review; poor employee training records; and the lack of a formal written maintenance program.
The federal government requires risk management plans – which outline how a facility reduces the chances of an accidental leak of extremely hazardous material and how it would respond to any hazardous release — for plants and facilities with significant amounts of dangerous chemicals.
In the case of West Fertilizer Co., Johnson wrote in an e-mail, the facility fell under the requirement because “the quantity of ammonia on-site exceeds 10,000 lbs.” She added that the company “has not had a major accident in the last five-years.”
The blast came on a grim anniversary for the Waco area. Twenty years ago this week, 76 members of the fringe Branch Davidians religious group were killed after setting fire to their building when federal agents attempted to serve a search warrant.
Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin contributed to this story.