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Same Fertilizer In West Explosion Is Stored Near 8 Texas Towns, Investigation Finds

Joe Berti
A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant killed 15 people in the small town of West in 2013.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Ammonium nitrate still resides near schools and homes across Texas, despite progress made after 2013 explosion; a North Texas man’s invention could protect your vehicle from the next hailstorm; the Greater Denton Arts Council will issue more than a dozen grants to local artists; and more.

An investigation by The Dallas Morning News found ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer that caused a deadly explosion at a plant in the town of West, Texas, three years ago, can still be found near schools and homes in some towns.

Some safety recommendations have been heeded since the explosion killed 15 and destroyed surrounding facilities on April 17, 2013. The Morning News reported many agricultural supply and feed stores have stopped selling ammonium nitrate, and others have moved the chemical out of neglected buildings and into fire-resistant concrete structures. But some safety precautions have not been adopted, liking installing a sprinkler system, which is recommended by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, but not the state, according to the Morning News.

The Associated Press reported: “Using a state database and inspection reports obtained from the State Fire Marshal's Office, the newspaper identified 19 businesses stocking large amounts of ammonium nitrate within a half-mile of schools, hospitals or nursing homes.”

The Dallas Morning News cross-checked with the businesses and found eight of the 19 still sell the fertilizer.

Background on the explosion from The Associated Press:

“On April 13, 2013, a blaze heated up 30 tons of ammonium nitrate. Investigators don't know for sure what detonated the fertilizer, which can also be used as an explosive. The blast carved a crater 10 feet deep and damaged nearby schools. Twelve of the 15 who died were first responders; more than 300 people were injured. A government study found that while 54 percent of the people who went to the hospital after the explosion had been within 1,000 feet of the blast, many who sought medical help had been farther away.”

Read more. [The Dallas Morning News, The Associated Press]

  • Texas nearly swept the top five Best City Park contest, voted on by USA Today readers. Voting ran for four weeks, and the competition was stiff, but unfortunately, the ultimate winner was Forest Park in St. Louis. The next four spots, however, belonged to the Lone Star State — downtown Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park, Zilker Park in Austin and Houston’s Discovery Green and Buffalo Bayou Park. See the full top 10. [USA Today]
  • A giant bubble could protect your vehicle from hail damage. A North Texas man invented a protective covering for vehicles that cushions the impact of hail and allows the hailstone to fall gently to the ground. Mike Siciliano had the idea for the Hail Protector seven years ago because of a lack of products to prevent hail damage to cars, KXAS (NBC 5) reported. “In three years, he says he’s sold about 1,000 Hail Protectors but says business has picked up since the recent hail storms in North Texas.” Siciliano said the covers can endure severe storms, but it will cost you $350-$450, depending on the size of your vehicle. Watch the story. [KXAS]
  • The Greater Denton Arts Council is offering 15 to 20 $500 grants for creators of all disciplines in Denton County. The grant program was expanded to encourage more artists to create something that would positively impact the Denton community. Art&Seek reported: “You’re not limited by much with your proposal, though your project or program must be done within Denton County, and it must be art-oriented.” Artists and creators can apply by 5 p.m. on April 29, and winners will be notified on May 27. Read more. [Art&Seek]
  • The street leading up to Prairie View A&M University now memorializes one of its graduates — Sandra Bland. Last summer, the 28-year-old woman died by suicide in a Waller County jail cell three days after being pulled over for an improper lane change, arrested when the traffic stop became contentious, and subsequently jailed.  “The trooper who arrested her has been fired and is charged with misdemeanor perjury related to her case,” The Associated Press reported. The Houston Chronicle reportsUniversity Drive signs were replaced with Sandra Bland Parkway signs during a ceremony Friday attended by about 100 activists, students and Bland's relatives. [The Associated Press]