Thursday, April 24, 2014

Interactive map shows schools + chemical storage

I had meant to get to this earlier, closer to the anniversary ...

On April 17, 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas. The facility was on fire and emergency responders were onsite attempting to control the blaze when, at approximately 7:50:38 p.m. CDT a massive explosion leveled the plant and destroyed many other buildings nearby. 

All told, fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and more than 150 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

As bad as this sounds, it could have been much, much worse. One of the damaged buildings was West Intermediate School, which was located right next to the plant (see figure). If the explosion had occurred while school was in session, well - it is pretty horrible to think about what would have happened.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images  -  click here for the photo source

In the year since the explosion there have been absolutely no changes in law or regulation to make another such accident less likely to occur.

The Center for Effective Government has created an interactive map that shows schools within one mile of a high-risk chemical facility. They combined data on chemical facilities from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP) and information on schools (elementary through high school) from the National Center for Education Statistics. (The data from the RMP is easier to access via

You can look up the schools in your area to see what reporting facilities are nearby. Here is a clip of the image for the area around Buffalo, New York ...

The red circles are RMP facilities and the blue flags are schools. You can click on the icons to get more information about each site. The colored background gives you demographic information - the browns are at or below median income ($50,157) the lighter, the lower. The blues are above median income, the darker the higher. Totally unsurprisingly, the children in the lower income areas are the ones more at risk. 

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