The plant also filed a “worst-case release scenario” report with the EPA and local officials stating there was no risk of a fire or an explosion. The scenario described an anhydrous ammonia leak that wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Media coverage focuses on the ammonium nitrate, which is what exploded, but anhydrous ammonia is deadly stuff. There was an anhydrous ammonia leak caused by a derailed train in 2002 in Minot, ND that killed one and injured 100, and it was only dumb weather luck that more weren’t killed.
Also, too: None of the media reports I’ve seen have mentioned this, but the West disaster is part of a Texas tradition. The worst industrial accident in US history was the explosion of a ship carrying 2100 tons of ammonium nitrate in Texas City, TX in 1947, which killed at least 567, injured at least 5,000, and broke windows in Houston, 40 miles away. A baby born the day of that explosion would be getting Medicare and Social Security by now, but fertilizer is still being mishandled and blowing up in Texas.