West suing fertilizer supplier

Matt Smith and Joe Sutton


(CNN) — The Texas town devastated by an April fertilizer plant explosion is suing the company that supplied the plant with ammonium nitrate, arguing the supplier sold the volatile compound “blindly” to a firm that didn’t handle it properly.

The city of West, Texas, accuses Adair Grain, which operated as the West Fertilizer Company, of negligently storing ammonium nitrate on its grounds before the April 17 blast. It also accused Illinois-based CF Industries of selling West Fertilizer about 200 tons of the compound without investigating whether the plant could store it safely.

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“The CF Industries defendants, in the best position to know and understand the full nature of the dangers of the product manufactured by them, made no effort to determine the risk to the community into which their product was shipped,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, they blindly sold hundreds of tons of hazardous ammonium nitrate to West Fertilizer Company and delivered it to a facility located within a community of people, houses, parks, schools and a nursing home.”

The suit also argues that CF Industries provided outdated safety information to West Fertilizer and failed to include additives that would have prevented a detonation. It was filed the week after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied additional aid to the town, notifying Gov. Rick Perry’s office that the state could handle the remaining reconstruction costs.

That decision was ripped by local and state officials who accused President Barack Obama of having “gone against his word.”

In a statement on the lawsuit, CF Industries said it was “sympathetic to those whose lives were affected by this unfortunate incident” but believes there is “no basis for this suit.” Adair Grain did not return a request for comment.

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The explosion devastated West, a town of about 2,800 people south of Dallas. It leveled numerous homes and damaged two schools and a nursing home and could be felt 50 miles away.

After a month of investigation, fire marshals said they could not determine a cause. Investigators have opened a criminal probe, but no one has been charged.