Deregulation Makes Things Blow Up
I know it seems like we’re getting one of these a month now, but you can line up Union Mills, Indiana with West, Texas and Geismar, Louisiana as places in which the Invisible Hand of Market Forces helped make something go boom and kill people.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration website says more than 500 explosions in grain-handling facilities across the nation over the last 35 years have killed 180 people and injured more than 675. Grain dust is the main source of fuel for explosions in grain handling, the website said. Shawn Lambert, safety manager for Avon, Indiana-based co-op owner Co-Alliance, says the explosion occurred inside a grain elevator with several connected silos. Boyd said the co-op property covers several acres and includes storage for hazardous material, including fertilizers and anhydrous ammonia, elsewhere on the site. The property is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Chicago. the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no record of any inspections at the co-op, spokesman Bob Dittmer said.
And, in West, Texas, we learn that the fertilizer plant that blew up there didn’t even have a sprinkler system.
The West Fertilizer Co. had no sprinkler systems, stored the chemical in wooden bins and did not report to local emergency responders the potential hazards of storing tons of ammonium nitrate because the law does not require them to do so, the report states. Firefighters are given only vague guidelines on how to battle a blaze involving ammonium nitrate - a chemical often used as a cheap alternative to dynamite in mining operations that has been used in terrorist bomb attacks.