WEST, Texas (KXAN/AP) - Federal regulators fined the company that operates the Texas fertilizer plant that exploded overnight $10,000 last summer for safety violations, The Associated Press reported Thursday. But the government accepted $5,250 after the company took what it described as corrective actions.
The wire service also reported that the facility did not have the state-required sprinkler systems.
Records reviewed by the AP show that the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration determined that the West Fertilizer Co. planned to transport anhydrous ammonia without making or following a security plan. An inspector also found that the plant's ammonia tanks weren't properly labeled.
It is not unusual for companies to negotiate lower fines with regulators.
Meanwhile, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials said the 51-year-old West fertilizer plant has been cited before for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit.
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- Timeline: Plant cited in 2006
The TCEQ investigated West Fertilizer on June 20, 2006, after receiving a complaint June 9 of a strong ammonia smell.
Agency records show that the person who lodged the complaint said the ammonia smell was "very bad last night" and lingered until after he or she went to bed.
TCEQ officials cited the plant for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit. The plant received an air quality permit as a fertilizer mixing and storage facility from the TCEQ the following December.
Also in 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the plant in 2006 for failing to have a risk management plan.
Meanwhile, a search of OSHA inspection records show there have been no inspections done at the facility for at least the last five years.
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West Fertilizer reportedly stored 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia that, along with nitric acid, is used to produce ammonium nitrate. That is a fertilizer, pesticide and rodent killer.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said it was deploying a large investigation team to West. An ATF national response team that investigates all large fires and explosions was also expected, bringing fire investigators, certified explosives specialists, chemists, canines and forensic specialists.
This report contains information from The Associated Press.
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