A Dallas Morning News investigation in 2008 found that Dallas County residents were "at risk of a toxic disaster because outdated and haphazard zoning has allowed homes, apartments and schools to be built within blocks &mdash in some cases even across the street &mdash from sites that use dangerous chemicals."
Ed Sykora, who owns a Ford dealership in West and spent a dozen years on the school board and the city council, told the Huffington Post he couldn't recall the town discussing whether it was a good idea to build houses and the school so close to the plant, which has been there since 1962. "The land was available out there that way; they could get sewer and other stuff that way without building a bunch of new lines," Sykora said. "There never was any thought about it. Maybe that was wrong."
Who's investigating what happened?
OSHA, the EPA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are all investigating. But don't hold your breath waiting for the Chemical Safety Board's conclusions. The agency is still investigating a blast that killed seven workers at an oil refinery in Washington State three years ago, as well as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers in 2010 and sent oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for months.
A Center for Public Integrity investigation found that the number of accident reports completed by the Chemical Safety Board had declined dramatically since 2006. Daniel Horowitz, the agency's managing director, said that the agency was stretched thin and had been asking for more investigators for years.
"Going forward, the owners and employees of Adair Grain and West Fertilizer Co. are working closely with investigating agencies,"Donald Adair, the plant's owner and a West resident,said in a statement last Friday. "We are presenting all employees for interviews and will assist in the fact finding to whatever degree possible."
Has Congress introduced any new regulation legislation?
Yes, but it would roll back regulations rather than strengthen them. Eleven representatives &mdash one Democrat and 10 Republicans &mdash sponsored a bill in February that would limit the EPA's regulatory authority over fertilizer plants. It has been endorsed by industry groups such as the Fertilizer Institute. Kathy Mathers, a spokeswoman for the Fertilizer Institute, told ProPublica that the group supports the bill because it would more clearly spell out how the EPA can regulate the industry.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated two different figures for the number of people killed in the blast. It is at least 15 people.