A fertilizer plant explosion on April 17 in the small town of West, Texas, claimed the lives of 15 people, injuring more than 200 residents and ravaging about 50 homes in the process.
In Finley, Wash., two fertilizer plants producing similar products like the West Fertilizer Plant sparked concerns within the Washington state Department of Agriculture. Concerns about whether or not such facilities could induce hazardous incidents like that of West Fertilizer Plant due to a lack of safety inspections emerged.
The last inspection of the West Fertilizer Plant was conducted in 1985, making such a question of safety applicable.
When asked about the fertilizer plants, Pierce students were concerned with environmental hazards.
Students such as Isaac Folitau were concerned with the social and ecological factors at risk if anything cataclysmic occurred at these plants.
“I question whether these fertilizer plants present similar dangers to the fertilizer plant in West,” Folitau said. “Plus, if a fertilizer explosion did occur, given the current state of our environment, it would have disastrous results.”
According to the Benton County Fire Department, the Agrium plant is equipped with multiple water guns and flood monitors. Because the plant stores large amount of flammable gases and toxins these devices ensures the protection potential disastrous outbreaks.
Various sources in the media say that the West explosion was not solely due to a lack of safety inspections. The West Fertilizer Plant gave false information about the number of employees working at the plant.
Almost 15 employees were cited as staff members, however, in actuality there were only seven, who all perished in the explosion. Certain plants that employ 10 or fewer employees are exempt in oversight from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“What happened in West can be qualified as a mistake that could have been avoided way ahead of time,” student Duncan Walter said. “It could be devastating if anything were to ever happen to the fertilizer plants in Finley.”
Public safety inspections often rely on the honor system. No one can say whether or not other plants across the nation are secretly demonstrating unlawful business practices such as falsifying the number of employees. One thing is a fact, the longer the deception, the higher the risk of public safety growing at an alarming rate.
What remains of the West Fertilizer Plant is a 93-foot crater that scars the land leaving many to question how this could’ve been prevented.
“My heart goes out to all the victims of the West Fertilizer Plant explosion,” Ernesto Alegria said. “I believe that Washington should not have fertilizer plants near these farms and suburbs pose the same risks that effected so many people in Texas.”
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