Explosion Prompts Lawsuit Against Fertilizer Producer

June 25, 2013 06:33 AM
Explosion Prompts Lawsuit Against Fertilizer Producer

CF Industries Holdings Inc., the largest U.S. producer of nitrogen fertilizer, was sued by the city of West, Texas, for the deadly explosion in a plant that the company supplied with ammonium nitrate.

The town sued the chemical feedstock maker, claiming it should have inspected the West Fertilizer Co.’s facility and issued its own safety warnings to the community on the explosive risks of ammonium nitrate.

CF Industries is "better able to protect inhabitants of the communities where they distribute large quantities of ammonium nitrate than either public sector agencies or the small fertilizer mixing facilities from whom they reap financial gain," the town said in a complaint filed in state court in Waco that seeks more than $1 million in damages.

The company shipped 200 tons of fertilizer to the plant during the six weeks before an April 17 explosion killed 15 people and damaged the small town’s high school, middle school and infrastructure, according to the June 21 complaint. The blast damaged more than 150 structures across a 35-block area.

"CF Industries is sympathetic to those whose lives were affected by this unfortunate incident," Susan Fisher, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. "CF Industries believes, however, that there is no basis for this suit." She said the company will seek dismissal of the complaint.

Louisiana Blast

The lawsuit follows Deerfield, Ill.-based CF Industries’ statement June 15 that one person died and seven were injured after a blast at a plant in Donaldsonville, La. The company said the accident happened when an inert nitrogen vessel ruptured.

West claimed in its complaint that CF Industries was "negligent in failing and/or refusing to include an additive/coating that would have prevented the ammonium nitrate from detonating/exploding," when a fire of unknown origin overheated some of the fertilizer stored at the site.

The complaint also named Adair Grain Inc., the plant’s owner, which was sued in April by townspeople and insurance firms seeking damages for the blast. At least 33 residents of the town and four local insurance agencies are suing Adair, according to court records and the victims’ lawyers.

The case is City of West, Texas v. CF Industries, 2013- 2476, District Court of McLennan County, Texas (Waco).

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