Report: Texas Fertilizer Plant Was Cited in 2006 for Permit Violation and Authorities Concerned about Possible Ammonia Leak

A swath of debris is strewn after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Associated Press reported early Thursday morning that the Texas fertilizer plant in which the massive explosion took place Wednesday was cited in 2006 for failing to obtain or qualify for a permit.

More than 100 were injured and an as yet unknown number of people were killed.

The AP reports:

The Texas fertilizer plant where an explosion injured more than 100 people and killed an unknown number of others was cited for failing to obtain or to qualify for a permit in 2006.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated West Fertilizer on June 20, 2006, after receiving a complaint June 9 of a strong ammonia smell. Agency records show that the person who lodged the complaint said the ammonia smell was “very bad last night” and lingered until after he or she went to bed.

Wednesday night’s explosion leveled the plant and severely damaged other area buildings. Authorities say people were killed, but they don’t know how many.

Authorities were still trying to evacuate area homes early Thursday morning.

Waco Police Spokesman Sgt. William Patrick Swanton was quoted by ABC News overnight saying officials continued to be concerned about leaks of ammonia from the plant’s ruins, as well as the possibility of residual explosions.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) announced it is deploying a “large investigation team” to the scene of the explosion, which is expected to arrive Thursday afternoon.

According to its press release: “The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents…CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.”

ABC Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser described to ABC News radio the danger of exposure to ammonia. “What you see with high level ammonia exposure is damage to your eyes, to your throat, to your nose, to your esophagus when you swallow,” he said.

“A blast that’s going in one direction, if you get a change in the wind, it can come to another neighborhood and be affected,” he added.

Resident Cheryl Marak who evacuated her home which she said was destroyed told CNN that before she left town it was “getting hard to breathe.”

The mayor of West, Texas Tommy Muska is urging those residents who have remained in the area to stay indoors due to any gas that might be in the air. He also expressed concern about winds which were forecast to change direction overnight.

Marak says her dogs were killed and two of her homes were destroyed by the blast whose force knocked her over. She told Piers Morgan that her husband Marty is a volunteer firefighter and was busy fighting the blaze at the plant.

“I am begging, begging him to let me come in and get him … he said he can’t, he’s got to stay with his guys,” Marak said. “He won’t leave. I would give anything if he would come home.”

Here is Marak’s interview with Piers Morgan of CNN: