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Learning From The West Explosion: Safety And Security In Tracking Fertilizer Plants

Ryan Poppe
TPR News
The first week of school for fall 2013 and West, Texas, is slowly rebuilding their schools after the blast.

Texas Matters: An update on the Texas state fire marshal's online tool to locate ammonium nitrate facilities in the state like the one that exploded in the town of West. Are communities safer from this kind of a disaster? Also on this show: Texas libraries are set to lose federal funding, author Beverly Donofrio on her new memoir.

Ammonium nitrate storage in Texas after the West explosion

On April 17, the town of West, Texas, was leveled by an explosion at the local fertilizer plant.

A fire broke out at the plant and the local volunteer fire department was sent in. Soon after there was a terrible explosion that killed 15 people and destroyed or severely damaged more than 150 buildings including local schools.

Since that fateful day, little has changed in Texas to avoid another explosion of that kind. In the last legislative session, no new laws or regulations were passed that required stricter guidelines or enforcement for the storage of large amounts of ammonia nitrate fertilizer.

The people of West and their volunteer fire department did not know that they were living in a blast zone. How could they prepare and train for the impending disaster if they were never told about the risk?

Now the Texas Fire Marshal’s office has launched a website that allows Texans to search for large amounts of the explosive ammonium nitrate.

Chris Connealy is the Texas state fire marshal:

"This is primarily a local jurisdiction issue. They have this facility in their community and we just want to help facilitate conveying information of the best practices that are related to both storage of the product [and] what to do if an incident occurs -- whether it be first responders, the community, emergency management personnel -- so that they have some resources and information."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Texas libraries face loss of millions of dollars in federal funds

Credit City of San Antonio
Libraries of all sizes will be affected by the cut in federal funds, but libraries in larger cities will not have as much trouble as those in smaller rural communities.

The federal grant that supports the libraries around the state is being cut because the state government has slashed its support for local libraries, making the state unqualified to get the money.

Gloria Meraz  is the director of communications for the Texas Library Association:

"Every single bit of money that now the state library is using to support library development throughout Texas is actually that federal money. So if we don't get that waiver, if that federal money doesn't come back to Texas, then I really can't really tell you what the landscape of library services is going to look like in the next two years."

Who will be affected?

"This will affect every single library in Texas large and small. It will also affect academic libraries -- these are university libraries and even some school libraries -- the difference, of course, is that larger libraries have different sources of funding."

Seeing through the veil after a traumatic experience

Author Beverly Donofrio was on a search for a more contemplative life. The path led to San Miguel de Allende where she lived and researched monasteries that she might join. In the midst of this, she was the victim of an attack -- one that shook her faith and eventually led her on another road, one of prayer and peace, that she couldn't have imagined.

Yvette Benavides talked to Beverly Donofrio about her latest memoir "Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace and Solace."

"The first chapter talks about that experience (being raped) and then I need to heal and need to understand how this God -- that I conceived of as a love that infuses everything -- would allow such a thing to happen. How there could be evil in a world that I think is supported by love."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi