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Texas town devastated in 2013 fertiliser plant explosion to receive $10 million to settle damages claims

26 January 2018

The city of West, Texas, where a fertiliser plant exploded killing 15 people, has settled its claims with manufacturers and distributors of the product that exploded. The town’s lawsuit accused the companies of negligence in selling highly explosive ammonium nitrate to West Fertilizer, owners of the plant. The companies denied responsibility but settled before the case went for trial on January 16.

Aftermath of West Fertilizer plant explosion - Image: CSB
Aftermath of West Fertilizer plant explosion - Image: CSB

The blast the night of April 17, 2013, killed 15, injured more than 160, destroyed or damaged more than 150 buildings and caused extensive damage to local infrastructure.

Ten volunteer firefighters who responded when they received reports of a small fire at the plant, two men helping them and three nearby residents were killed. The incident led to questions over the state’s ability to oversee the storage of ammonium nitrate, the risks facing rural fire departments and their communities from stored chemicals, and more generally the effectiveness of federal chemical safety regulations.

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said in a report that the city, state and various federal agencies all could have taken steps that would have made the disaster less likely.

In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed a law regulating storage and inspection of ammonium nitrate and granting authority to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and local fire marshals to effect and enforce such regulation.

The companies will pay the city $10.44 million to compensate the city for damages not covered by insurance or governmental grants. Under the terms of the agreement, CF Industries will pay $6.4 million, El Dorado Chemical $3.9 million and Adair Grain $143,000.

Adair Grain, which owned West Fertilizer, only had a $1 million insurance policy. The total cost of the damage from the explosion has been estimated at more than $100 million.

West Mayor Tommy Muska told KCEN-TV he was very satisfied with the settlement, but that it had been a long time coming.

The city was required as a municipality to disclose the terms of the settlement, while private damages claims have been largely confidential.

In 2016, government investigators determined the fire that triggered the blast was deliberately set.

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