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JFC.

Like so many people in my neck of the woods (I'm in the DFW area of Texas, about an hour and a half north of West, TX), driving 1-35 is a torment. Wall to wall traffic, and it's the only corridor to Austin. The highlight of every 1-35 trip is a stop in West for kolaches at the Little Czech Bakery. It's a rite of passage for every college student from Baylor to UT, to Texas State, truly.

You pull off the highway, it's right there on the feeder road, and you roll out with fantastic pastries. People at the bakery last night could see the smoke flume, and could feel the concussive wave from the explosion.

There's not much to West, it's a typical small Texas town - a Sonic, Wal-mart, lots and lots of small businesses. And the fertilizer plant. Only about 2000 people in the whole place. Wide open spaces filled with people who don't make much.

To give you an idea of the scope of this, the Oklahoma City Bombing by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols used around 2000 pounds of ammonium nitrate (basically powdered urine) to blow up 16 city blocks. In West, they had 54,000 pounds.

The stuff that blew up last night was anhydrous ammonia, NH3 - stuff you put on your grass to green it up. That ScottsGreen, Miracle Grow, ChemLawn on and on. That's what it is. (To be fair, that stuff is also used in pharmecutical production. But that's not what this particular plant makes.) As a gas, it's absolute poison. If you used ammonia in your bathroom to clean your tub and you didn't have a vent open? You realistically could die. (Hey, on Hoarders they talk about this with cat urine and how it kills people.) Now magnify that to the scale of that plant. It's just devastating.

All this week I've been writing a script for my show about fertilizers, why people need to lay off, etc. Huh. Fucking timely.

[ETA] Correction. Old school NH3, Ammonia nitrate comes from dried urine (usually pigs). This plant used all of this natural gas that's slowly poisoning the water table (another rant for another day) mixed with atmospheric ammonia. Yay? (I wish they'd go back to powdered pig piss. At least that stuff would be getting used. OR STOP USING MANUFACTURED FERTILIZERS, GUYS. FARMS. <-- mostly them.)

I don't know if any of you are from that area (or have people there) but this is a great list of resources from finding people, getting shelter, and organizations that are accepting donations.

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brunettepet
Apr. 18th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC)
The first picture I saw when i checked Yahoo this AM was the huge plume of smoke as seen from the Czech Stop. What a terrible catastrophe for that small community. Everyone there is going to know each person injured and killed.

Also, what is the long term damage? Is this stuff going to poison the water table around the blast? The land? My thoughts are with everyone involved. The damage looks terrifying.
stoney321
Apr. 18th, 2013 10:36 pm (UTC)
The important thing about NH3 is how quickly it binds (the nitrogen) to plant material to provide food and then filters through the soil. I don't know the longevity of it (I'm actually poring through all of my extension agency text books looking for my notes on ammonia) off the top of my head, but excessive use causes runoff into water supplies, which merges into our rivers, to the Mississippi, to the gulf. And then you get algae blooms (they THRIVE on the nitrogen) which kill off everything to a depth of up to 500ft in most cases.

It's not that it's poisonous at that point, it's that it literally chokes the life out of all the living creature near the water surface.

In the meantime, all of that ammonia in the air causes serious lung damage and skin burns. Every time I see a volunteer take their rebreathers off I panic.

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Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

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