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After West explosion, Texas may compile public database of hazardous chemical sites

June 17, 2013, 1:57 pm

Post by the Dallas Morning News

By JAMES DREW

Staff Writer

 

AUSTIN — The state plans to compile a registry of businesses with dangerous chemicals so citizens can learn about hazards like the fertilizer plant in West, where a fire triggered a massive blast of ammonium nitrate.

The online database is among a handful of proposals, aired at a hearing Monday, that legislators said would not involve new laws or regulations, or increases in state spending.

“Wouldn’t you want to know if there’s a chemical facility in your neighborhood with hazardous material, ammonium nitrate, or other types of chemicals? And the answer is yes,” Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

The registry would be on the state fire marshal’s website, but state officials have not decided which chemicals would be included. Media outlets, including The Dallas Morning News, have published databases of facilities with ammonium nitrate and related chemicals based on information filed with the state health department.

Rep. Joe Pickett, the El Paso Democrat who is the committee’s chairman, said he expects residents will use the state website to pose questions about safety to their county judge, city council or fire chief.

“We’re looking for something that is visual, quick, so that they can find it by maybe entering a ZIP code,” he said.

Monday’s hearing was the second that the committee has held in response to the April 17 explosion at West Fertilizer Co. Fifteen people, including 12 volunteer firefighters and other first responders, died when about 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate exploded at the plant on the outskirts of West. The blast injured more than 200 people and destroyed nearby apartments, houses and a nursing home.

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