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Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:21 AM

Look at West, Texas on Google Maps

http://goo.gl/maps/kFuak

And try to figure out what kind of fucking idiot would allow a middle school, a high school, a playground, an old folks home, an apartment building and a couple of dozen homes within a block or two of a fucking fertilizer plant?

No matter how this plays out, this town was so lucky that the explosion happened when the schools weren't filled with kids.

Gotta love Texas, the land without all those onerous Government regulations that would keep people from building schools next to an explosive waiting to happen.

43 replies, 4629 views

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Arrow 43 replies Author Time Post
Reply Look at West, Texas on Google Maps (Original post)
sharp_stick Apr 2013 OP
sinkingfeeling Apr 2013 #1
slackmaster Apr 2013 #2
pampango Apr 2013 #3
n2doc Apr 2013 #10
wercal Apr 2013 #20
surrealAmerican Apr 2013 #29
Daemonaquila Apr 2013 #39
sharp_stick Apr 2013 #4
slackmaster Apr 2013 #42
kentauros Apr 2013 #5
sharp_stick Apr 2013 #7
bike man Apr 2013 #13
kentauros Apr 2013 #14
sharp_stick Apr 2013 #19
nadinbrzezinski Apr 2013 #28
sammytko Apr 2013 #12
kentauros Apr 2013 #17
Horse with no Name Apr 2013 #43
wercal Apr 2013 #18
kentauros Apr 2013 #21
wercal Apr 2013 #24
kentauros Apr 2013 #26
sammytko Apr 2013 #31
kentauros Apr 2013 #36
pinboy3niner Apr 2013 #40
kentauros Apr 2013 #41
wercal Apr 2013 #37
Ganja Ninja Apr 2013 #6
TexasProgresive Apr 2013 #8
FSogol Apr 2013 #9
Poll_Blind Apr 2013 #11
sharp_stick Apr 2013 #15
Coyotl Apr 2013 #16
RyanThomas Apr 2013 #22
progressoid Apr 2013 #23
Arugula Latte Apr 2013 #25
Downwinder Apr 2013 #27
sharp_stick Apr 2013 #32
pinboy3niner Apr 2013 #33
bushisanidiot Apr 2013 #30
tammywammy Apr 2013 #34
cynatnite Apr 2013 #35
X_Digger Apr 2013 #38

Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:23 AM

1. And Perry is inviting 'business' to Texas because they lack regulation.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:24 AM

2. I'm glad you got the order of things right. The plant and storage tanks were there before...

 

...the houses, school, etc.

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Response to slackmaster (Reply #2)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:27 AM

3. It is too bad that local planning/zoning officials cannot be sued over allowing the building of

apartments, houses, schools, etc. so close to an existing hazard. My guess is that they were under a lot of pressure from developers and local politicians to allow such developments or risk being portrayed as 'anti-business'.

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Response to pampango (Reply #3)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:39 AM

10. Land rights!

"It's my land and I'll build whatever I want on it" Isn't that the libertarian ideal?

The school is the worst. They could have put that one in many places, I would guess.

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Response to n2doc (Reply #10)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:53 AM

20. Well you do have a right to your land...

...and the plant doesn't have the right to impact your land with say, an explosion hazard.

This is complicated by the fact that the plant almost certainly pre-dates zoning laws in the area...so it was there first, and impacting probably farmland.

Buuuut....it has probably been expanded in some way since zoning was put in place and houses were built near it....which should have required a building permit. In a perfect world, witholding a permit would have forced the plant to pull stakes and move to a more remote area. But, I suspect it was a major employer in town, and alot of things slipped through the cracks.

Kind of a 'group ignorance'. However, as I posted elsewhere in this thread, looking from the air, I would have never suspected such a massive explosion could have come from that plant...and I bet others were just as ignorant to the danger.

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Response to pampango (Reply #3)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:37 AM

29. Were there any local planning or zoning laws?

I'm not sure the people you would sue exist.

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Response to pampango (Reply #3)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:20 PM

39. Not really their fault.

I was listening to the radio this morning during a discussion about how the plant's federal reports described the "worst case scenario" as a 10-minute chemical emission that would be irritating but not fatal. The guest was talking about how this is the norm - plant managers report the worst that they expect to happen, not the worst that could happen. "Otherwise," he said, "no plants would ever be built."

This open corporate lie is a huge problem. When they're this brazen about mis-reporting for emergency planning, we clearly have a broken regulatory scheme and officials at every level who are complicit. This goes a lot farther than blaming officials in that town for allowing various things to be built in potentially dangerous areas.

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Response to slackmaster (Reply #2)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:27 AM

4. You can tell the plant

was at one point North of town on the rail line where it probably made sense. Then over the years nothing happened and complacency sets in, so they start getting closer and closer to it.

This kind of idiocy in planning isn't just dangerous it's unforgivable.

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Response to sharp_stick (Reply #4)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 06:35 PM

42. The people who worked at the plant probably wanted to live close to it.

 

Not a good choice, but zoning laws are almost unheard of in Texas.

It's not the only state where things are like that. I saw a major gas station called Jimmy Carter's right next door to a large fireworks store in South Carolina. I picked up some fun stuff at the fireworks store, and the boiled peanuts from Jimmy Carter's were fantastic.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:29 AM

5. You know, it's not like this town was built yesterday,

or even in the last few decades. It's been around for a while.

And then there's that pesky fact that this kind of "planning" is rampant all across the nation, as we are told by those DUers living in such towns (outside of Texas.) This kind of town-planning is neither new nor particular just to Texas.

But, I know my words will be resoundingly ignored and dismissed.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:34 AM

7. I'm sure it has

doesn't change the fact that it's idiotic to place schools and houses that close to a plant that makes and stores some pretty explosive shit.

Of course it's not just Texas, but it's Texas today that shows us what being so free of regulations can cause.

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Response to sharp_stick (Reply #7)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:41 AM

13. People buy the homes and rent the apartments that are built in proximity to these sites.

 

Some of the people attend the city/county/school board meetings when new building sites are proposed/discussed.

So, there is that.

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Response to sharp_stick (Reply #7)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:41 AM

14. It's called complacency.

And it happens everywhere. You may continue to define it as "stupid" but I'd define it as what most people think about their neighborhood businesses, and nothing happening in all the time (read, decades) they've lived there. At least, not until today. This will change the minds of the survivors.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #14)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:48 AM

19. That's why you need

zoning and regulation.

A properly enforced zoning requirement would never allow complacency to take root.

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Response to sharp_stick (Reply #19)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:33 AM

28. Almost right

You need involved citizens who become pests to local, and in a few cases state officials.

If we did not have those, a certain power plant would be well on it's way to be built. Yup, talking from watching involved citizens do just that.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:39 AM

12. I hear you. I live in a small Texas town.

This doesn't surprise me.

Is this "town" even incorporated?

Our town makes rules through resolutions and then will vote to let Jim bob or Mary Sue do whatever because they are Betty jeans grand kids and they're good people.

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Response to sammytko (Reply #12)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:46 AM

17. West, Texas, is incorporated.

However, the fertilizer plant located themselves just outside of city limits in order to avoid city taxes (they'd still be subject to county taxes, but those would likely be much less than for the town.)

I don't even pretend to know much about small town life, other than observing it when visiting family. Yet it is pretty easy to figure out how they think in "city planning", i.e., there usually isn't any when the town is just starting off and growing through the decades.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #17)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 06:40 PM

43. Well...truth is

that city limits in small Texas towns have been known to move to accommodate those that don't want to pay taxes.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:46 AM

18. It looks like the old Main Street is south of the plant...

....and the town grew in a somewhat linear direction, probably because of how the interstate constrains growth in all directions.

Looking from above, the plant doesn't look that big...I certainly would never have known an explosion like that could happen, and I bet alot of other people didn't either.

Another way to look at this - its not that people foolishly built (on their own property) close to the plant...the problem is that the plant posed a danger that extended beyond its own boundaries. In my experience, the regulation of these types of danger is done at the state level (Dept of Health and Environment) - but mandated by the federal government. So, somebody dropped the ball, or the plant owners were not truthfull in their disclosures about the danger, blast radius, etc. I imagine this plant pre-dates alot of regulation, and some things slipped through the cracks.

One thing I'm fairly sure of - insurance companies that cover these plants are going to do a review of what type of risk they are taking on, based on this.

One thing I always worry about in these small towns - train derailment. There is a small town near me, where the train derailed just outside of town. Based on the footprint of destruction, it certainly would have destroyed alot of houses, if it had happened in town. I see a similar issue in this town.

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Response to wercal (Reply #18)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:54 AM

21. From what I've read, the company had been in business for 55 years.

That puts their their start at around 1958. I have to wonder what the federal regulations were at the time for this kind of thing. Because that's also about eleven years after the bigger disaster of Texas City, also from the explosion of fertilizer.

Freight train derailments worry me as well, and I live in a big city (Houston.) In fact, I live next to a power right-of-way that's next to a double pair of tracks. I've seen some nasty stuff being hauled to and from the Ship Channel and the petro-chemical plants out there. And the richest part of town here (River Oaks) has that same pair of tracks curving around behind it. I suspect none of them know what's traveling on those tracks so near to them...

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Response to kentauros (Reply #21)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:15 AM

24. I imagine there were very few regulations in the 1950's

But there are today.

And the regulation I'm talking about is something as simple as a blast radius map and emergency action plan with the local fire dept (make sure they know what's in there and have the right chemicals to fight a fire, etc.). This may have been done...but it wasn't really looked at or followed when zoning and platting was done next to it.

My fear of derailment goes beyond chemicals...just the kinetic destruction of the cars flying off the track scares me.

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Response to wercal (Reply #24)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:24 AM

26. That kind of regulation would be easy (and cheap) enough for most towns.

Perhaps more of them will look at what's in the backyards now and do something for their mutual safety.

The trains don't get up to speeds fast enough to do much more than make a jumbled mess if they derail here. I'm much more worried about leaks of stuff like vinyl chloride or hydrogen fluoride. Yet, I've also seen the local news get into a tizzy over a leak of liquified sulfur. I really wish they had at least one petroleum/chemical engineer on call for when such things happen.

Now, unless trains hit a large vehicle at a crossing (like a cement truck) they usually don't derail. However, I have heard of derailments caused by someone throwing a switch halfway, but they lock them down now.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #26)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:57 AM

31. chlorine leak from a train wreck in rural part of san antonio killed a couple people in 2004

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Response to sammytko (Reply #31)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:11 PM

36. Thanks for that link.

I'll have to read the rest of it at lunch. It reminds me of an accident we had on the freeways back in the 1970s, and I think it was also chlorine.

The worst "cloud" accident I recall wasn't from rail, but a hydrofluoric acid leak in Texas City. They evacuated people in time, but later aerial photos showed the path of the cloud. All vegetation along that route was dead.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #36)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:28 PM

40. Anhydrous ammonia also is transported by rail in tank cars

We seem to be seeing fewer breaches with release of chemicals like these in accidents/derailments thanks to federal regulations promulgated a few decades ago. To prevent a common cause of release--breach of the tank head by couplers of adjacent cars--new hazmat tank cars were required to have tank head protection (basically a shield) and existing tank cars were required to be retrofitted. I was involved in studies of those types of accidents and in pushing for those new regs at the time.

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Response to pinboy3niner (Reply #40)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:32 PM

41. Thanks for your work in that :)

Most leaks I ever hear about these days are from the plants and not the transport vehicles.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #26)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:11 PM

37. The regulation is likely in place

The disconnect comes when the local planning department doesn't understand that there is a blast radius map filed with the state....and they are generally (as I would be) ignorant of how dangerous that plant was. Its a disconnect and a communication issue (I deal with platting and zoning all the time). So, I can easily see how the development started to occur near the plant, without much of a second thought.

I can't remember the exact speeds, but I think a BNSF freight train runs at 52 mph, and Amtrak goes 73 mph...I'm going from memory. For obvious reasons, they have to slow down when entering a town...and occassionally something goes wrong, and things pile up.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:32 AM

6. I'm sure when all is said and done we'll find out ...

That regulations were lax.
That Inspections were few and far between and inspectors were underfunded.
The whole business friendly climate where employees are powerless, barely trained and poorly paid was a factor.
That the night shift was comprised of a couple Americans and a mix of legal and undocumented workers.

And naturally it was the undocumented workers fault.

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Response to Ganja Ninja (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:36 AM

8. If only they had more guns.....

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Response to Ganja Ninja (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:37 AM

9. Add: Nonexistent or poorly managed safety protocols. n/t

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:39 AM

11. From what I heard, the plant had been there since the 50's. It's quite likely that...

...almost everything else around that plant was, for whatever reason, built after the plant was. I agree it's an absolutely dangerous idea but, again, from what I know, it's not the case of a potentially dangerous plant being built in the middle of all these things, but land developers, school boards, etc. choosing to build so close to it.

I agree about government regulations and I have to say I'm quite curious to know what exactly the reasoning was in this case.

PB

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Response to Poll_Blind (Reply #11)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:45 AM

15. I think you're right

looking at the map it appears that the plant was originally North of town and the town moved up to meet it.

Even back in the 70's we knew fertilizer plants were dangerous places and didn't want anything vital to be right next to them.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:45 AM

16. There are anhydrous tanks in almost every farming town in the Midwest.

And they release gas in small amounts all the time. I was poisoned by a cloud of it in my home town.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:55 AM

22. Zoning is obviously socialism

By attempting to protect the lives of local inhabitants you obviously surrender to communism, at which point you lose your guns and UN peacekeepers spirit you away. Only by placing as many schools and crowded public buildings near dangerous locations can The Spirit of America as The Founders Intended (TSATFI) be preserved.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 10:57 AM

23. It happens all over the country. I saw it yesterday in my town.

I was at our vet yesterday. Just down the street to the south is an enormous oil and solvent company. Two blocks to the north is a huge Con Agra food plant. Lots of houses and apartments between and around them.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:16 AM

25. Yay, Free-Dumb!

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:30 AM

27. Tell me how safe it is around the Chevron refinery

in Richmond, California. It is not just in Texas. Look at the airports surrounded by development, the oil pipelines under subdivisions. It is all over the country/world.

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Response to Downwinder (Reply #27)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:58 AM

32. I'm not trying to say

this is just a Texas problem. I'm trying to say that allowing the building of schools next to a fertilizer plant is stupid no matter where it happens.

I'm not familiar with California so I can't say for certain but I'll bet that if you went to the city of Richmond today, or at any point in the last 30 or 40 years, and said you wanted to build a school on Xylene street they'd probably shoot you down.

The high school was built after 1987 and whoever figured that putting it next to a fertilizer plant was a good idea likely never was the brightest bulb on the tree. I grew up in a farming community back in the 80's and everyone knew the dangers of fertilizer.

If there were proper regulations in place the town would have looked at them and just maybe someone would have noticed that building a school there isn't all that good an idea.

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Response to Downwinder (Reply #27)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:02 PM

33. A gasoline pipeline exploded at the end of my street in L.A. in 1976; 4 dead, 16 injured

It was a gasoline pipeline from the Standard Oil refinery in El Segundo, struck by a backhoe during a street-widening project on Venice Bl. on the border of Palms/Culver City. None of us in the neighborhood had any idea that we had a gasoline pipeline running through our community. Minutes before the blast my wife returned home from shopping at the grocery store that was destroyed.

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 11:39 AM

30. Texas - the home of deregulation Governor Rick Perry.

How old is the plant? just curious of the idiot governor had to sign off on it's location.

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Response to bushisanidiot (Reply #30)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:02 PM

34. The plant has been there since 1955. n/t

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Response to sharp_stick (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:06 PM

35. A lot of small towns are like this...

Everything is close together.

In my hometown we lived near a grain silo and a fertilizer plant. The hospital was just a few blocks away. The schools are within walking distance.

This isn't just Texas, this is a lot of small towns across America. They are agriculture communities.

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Response to cynatnite (Reply #35)

Thu Apr 18, 2013, 12:20 PM

38. Ignorance of small (and older) towns seems to be rampant these days.

Kinda sad, if it didn't lead to so many mean-spirited comments.

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