The investigation into the cause of the April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer plant has run into a snag. The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, known as the CSB, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, commonly referred to as the ATF, are both conducting investigations, ATF under direction of the Texas State Fire Marshall’s office.
CSB claims ATF is hindering their investigation by refusing access to witnesses and the crime scene, and altering evidence. CSB has written a letter to the US Senate committee with oversight asking that they intervene. The Texas State Fire Marshall’s office is preparing a public response, expected out sometime today.
“It’s an unfortunate situation because all of these missions are fully compatible,” Dr. Daniel Horowitz, Managing Director of CSB told KTRH. “But one mission that is vital is that the Chemical Safety Board be allowed to find out what happened here to cause this tragedy and why? I think that ultimately what we owe to the victims is to make sure this doesn’t happen someplace else. That’s why it is really important that the site and the evidence be preserved and properly analyzed scientifically.”
According to Dr. Horowitz, the CBS has statutory authority under the Clean Air Acts to investigate any accidental release causing death, serious injury or property damage.
Robert Champion, the special agent in charge of the investigation for ATF, has publicly stated that his agency is conducting a criminal investigation and that it must be contained to law enforcement only.