City Sues Fertilizer Plant & Nitrate Supplier
WACO Texas (CN) - The city of West, Texas, sued the owner of a fertilizer plant that exploded in April, killing 15 people and flattening part of the town, and the chemical company that supplied it with ammonium nitrate.
West sued Adair Grain dba West Fertilizer Company, and ammonium nitrate supplier CF Industries and two CF affiliates, in McLennan County Court.
West claims that in March and April, CF sold Adair two 100-ton shipments of agricultural-grade ammonium nitrate.
Ammonium nitrate is also used as an oxidizing agent in explosives.
West claims that at the time of the explosion, the second shipment of chemicals remained on a railcar on a rail spur to the north of Adair's fertilizer mixing building. The city claims that says 30 tons from the first shipment had not yet been sold and was still inside the building at the time of the explosion.
"The explosion happened when a substantial portion of the thirty tons of ammonium nitrate stockpiled in the fertilizer mixing building was heated to the point of detonation," the complaint states. "This explosion occurred at approximately 7:50 pm, some twenty minutes after a fire had been detected in the same building at the fertilizer facility."
The explosion felt like a 2.1 magnitude earthquake, the complaint states.
More than 150 homes were severely damaged or destroyed, as were a high school, middle school, apartment complex and nursing home.
The city claims that CF failed or refused to properly inspect the fertilizer mixing facility to determine whether "hazard mitigation was needed or to provide recommendations for safe storage of ammonium nitrate."
"The CF Industries defendants, in the best position to know and understand the full nature of the dangers of the product manufactured by them, made no effort to determine the risk to the community into which their product was shipped," the complaint states. "Instead, they blindly sold hundreds of tone of hazardous ammonium nitrate to West Fertilizer Co. and delivered it to a facility located within a community of people, houses, parks, schools and a nursing home."
The CF defendants failed to provide a material safety data sheet for either shipment, which chemical companies are required to do for any shipment of ammonium nitrate, the complaint states.
"The CF Industries defendants' ammonium nitrate MSDS [material safety data sheet] in use at the time of the explosion was outdated and made reference to standards that were superseded in June of 2012," the complaint states. "The CF Industries defendants did not correct their MSDS for ammonium nitrate until a week after the explosion in West (approximately ten months after the new standard was adopted)."
West also claims that CF's ammonium nitrate was defective, in that it did not contain an additive that would have prevented detonation.
"These alternations were affordable and would have prevented the very explosion complained of herein," the complaint states.
The first lawsuits against Adair were filed one week after the explosion. A single mother claimed she lost all of her possessions when her apartment complex was destroyed. In another complaint, several insurance companies accused AGI of negligently operating the plant.
West seeks actual and punitive damages for negligence and product liability.
It is represented by Stephen Harrison with Harrison Davis in Waco.