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After blast, Texas to unveil database of hazardous chemicals

MGN Online Courtesy: KXXV
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 5:35pm

(CNN) -- With the deadly fertilizer plant explosions in the city of West on its mind, Texas will develop an online database that will allow residents to view local facilities that hold hazardous materials.

The creation of the database, which does not require a legislative vote, was announced by state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso.

Residents will be able to input their zip code into the database, which will then show the nearest hazardous sites, Pickett told CNN Tuesday.

Pickett is the chairman of the state legislature's Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

In April, a fire at the facility operated by West Fertilizer Company set off two explosions that registered on seismographs as a magnitude-2.1 earthquake and were felt 50 miles away.

The plant held 270 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate on site, according to regulatory records.

The new database will not only list sites with high volumes of ammonium nitrate, but also other volatile chemicals, Pickett said.

There are 16 sites, mostly located in unincorporated areas, that house large amounts of ammonium nitrate, the lawmaker said.

There may be up to 129 sites listed on the hazardous materials database, with varying levels of risk assigned to them, he said.

The site will also provide information for contacting authorities about concerns about such facilities.

A launch date for the database will be announced in about two weeks, Pickett said.

The blasts in West leveled a portion of the town, damaging numerous homes, a nursing home and the town's high school and middle school.

Authorities haven't publicly determined what caused the deadly situation, saying it could have started from a spark from a golf cart, an electrical short or could have been set intentionally. In May, authorities announced they had launched a criminal investigation into the case, though no one has been charged. 

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