Texas lawmakers inquire into plant explosion
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Two Texas lawmakers have launched inquiries into what oversight the state does on hazardous materials after an April 17 explosion at a fertilizer plant that killed 14 people.
In a letter, Democratic state Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston asked the Texas Environmental Quality Commission how the state can improve its oversight and suggests creating “buffer zones,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
Ellis asked whether the commissioner would consider new fees on Texas industries to pay for increased inspections. The agency’s budget was cut from $554 million in 2008 to $340 million this year. Ellis also asked if the agency would agree to levy fees to cover the cost of creating buffer zones between chemical facilities and schools or residential areas.
The West Fertilizer Co. plant where the explosion happened is near a nursing home, a high school, a middle school and homes. More than 200 people were injured in the blast in West.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Joe Pickett of El Paso has invited eight state agencies that have oversight on the plant or the explosion to testify at a hearing May 1.
The House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee chair wants a count of Texas facilities like the West Fertilizer plant to determine if a need exists for a database of such facilities.
Pickett said the aim of the inquiries is not “finger-pointing,” but rather to answer questions he and the public have. “How many of these facilities there are. Do we need to inventory them? Are there some more dangerous than others?” Pickett asked.
Man killed in central Iowa farm accident
PATON, Iowa (AP) — A central Iowa man has died after being crushed between two pieces of farm equipment.
Greene County Sheriff’s officials told Des Moines television station KCCI-TV 41-year-old George Wilson, of Paton, died in the Friday accident. Investigators said Wilson was helping fill fertilizer into a tractor when it lurched forward, crushing him between one of the tractor’s tires and a semi trailer.
Wilson was taken to the Greene County Medical Center and later flown to Mercy Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Ammonia leak sends central Indiana woman to hospital
TAYLORSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Central Indiana police say a 75-year-old woman who fled her home to escape ammonia leaking from farm equipment was treated at a local hospital for breathing difficulties.
Bartholomew County Deputy Sheriff Maj. Todd Noblitt said Evelyn Burton got in her car April 22 and drove away after she smelled the gas leaking near her Taylorsville home about 35 miles south of Indianapolis.
But Burton had to pull over after she began having breathing difficulties. She was taken by ambulance to a Columbus hospital, where she was treated and released.
Noblitt told The Republic a farmer applying anhydrous ammonia to his cropland as a fertilizer noticed a hose had burst on his tank. He went to Burton’s nearby home to warn her, but she had already fled.
Indiana deputy charged with animal neglect
SALEM, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana sheriff’s deputy faces 14 counts of animal neglect for allegedly mistreating cattle on his farm and a farm owned by his mother.
Washington County sheriff’s deputy Larry Motsinger has been charged with two felony counts of improper disposal of a dead animal and 14 misdemeanor counts of animal neglect. The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., reported the 66-year-old Pekin resident surrendered April 24 at the Washington County Jail in Salem.
Special Prosecutor Otto Schalk of Harrison County said State Police and State Veterinarian Jodi Lovejoy began investigating Motsinger in early March amid allegations about neglected cattle on the two farms. Schalk said Lovejoy and a state trooper examined several head of cattle on the farms last month and found cow carcasses on the elder Motsinger’s property.
Flames engulf two Iowa livestock barns
WELLMAN, Iowa (AP) — Eastern Iowa officials reported a fire at a hog finishing barn near Wellman.
A news release from Washington County’s emergency communications center said the fire was reported about 9:45 p.m. April 21. No injuries have been reported. Several fire departments responded to mutual aid calls. Officials said there were hogs inside the barn.
Another fire reportedly destroyed a cattle barn at the Fayette County Fairgrounds in northeastern Iowa, at West Union. No injuries have been reported in the April 20 fire.
Fair board member Kevin Converse said no cattle were in the building. Several campers and a tractor had been stored in it over the winter, however. The building houses cattle competitors during each year’s fair.
The fire also damaged siding on the dairy building. The fire cause is being investigated.