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Thread: Texas town holds no grudge against exploded fertilizer plant owner

  1. #1

    Texas town holds no grudge against exploded fertilizer plant owner

    The lawyers have set up shop and it will be very interesting to see if the goodwill shall remain towards Adair.

    By Colleen Jenkins and Tim Gaynor
    WEST, Texas (Reuters) - When Texas farmer Donald Adair bought the floundering West Fertilizer Co in 2004, his neighbors in the rolling countryside near West were grateful he had saved them from driving extra miles to Waco or Hillsboro to buy fertilizer, feed and tools.
    After the plant exploded last week, flattening homes, damaging schools, killing 14 people and leaving some 200 others with injuries including burns, lacerations and broken bones, they still described the 83-year-old owner as honest and good.
    "I like him very well, he's helped me out," said William Supak, a retired farmer who lives a few hundred yards (meters) from a farm house owned by the Adairs, and recalled a time when his neighbor helped save his hay by putting out a fire.
    As he paused from mowing the grass in front of his house, Supak said the disaster in West did not change his view of Adair, whom he said he sometimes sees using a powered wheel chair to fetch his mail.
    "I don't see him very often, but I understand that he's not in too good a health, said Supak.
    Another neighbor of Adair, who asked not to be identified, described him as a "good guy."
    "It's a farming community, everybody knows him. Like I said, it happened, and (to blame him) don't make good sense."
    Five days after the explosion, school reopened on Monday and grieving families planned funerals for the paramedics and firefighters who died trying to fight the blaze.
    Investigators said they still had not determined the cause of the explosion, and the people who lived closest to the plant had not yet been allowed to return to their homes.
    Adair has stayed out of the public eye, saying nothing since the statement he issued on Friday in which he vowed to cooperate with the investigation. A spokesman for Adair said he had been at the West Church of Christ, where he is an elder, on Wednesday night when he learned of the fire and drove to the scene to urge people to move to safety.
    "As a lifelong resident, my heart is broken with grief for the tragic losses to so many families in our community," Adair said in the statement. "The selfless sacrifice of first responders who died trying to protect all of us is something I will never get over."
    WHITE TWO-STORY HOUSE
    Adair lives about five miles from West in a neat, white two-story house set back from the road down a gravel driveway marked by a green John Deere mailbox. The house is surrounded by farm buildings and equipment, and has a basketball hoop.
    A Reuters reporter went to knock on the door as a silver Lincoln sedan rolled slowly down the drive and pulled up. A silver-haired woman with curls, matching one neighbor's description of Adair's wife Wanda, said: "Leave this property now," pausing to add, "Please."
    Six of Adair's seven children also live in the West area. Daughter Diane, a nurse, helped provide triage to injured residents after the blast, said Daniel Keeney, a crisis communications expert who is speaking on behalf of Adair.
    Most of the dozen residents interviewed by Reuters, including farmers, church members and local business owners who know Donald Adair, did not fault him for operating the plant so close to a residential area or for storing large quantities of the hazardous materials ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia.
    The privately held fertilizer plant has been in operation since 1962, long before the homes and nearby schools were built, and the fertilizer was needed by farmers, they said.
    "They provided a huge service to this area," said Mimi Irwin, owner of the Village Bakery, which sells kolache pastries in downtown West and hails itself as the first all-Czech bakery in Texas. "People are just sick about it."
    Irwin said the Adair family is generous in donating to community events, such as church bazaars and sports tournaments.
    "They're always one of the names in the newspaper as one of the givers," she said. "They've been good citizens of this community."
    Donald Adair is a lifelong farmer who also spent about 30 years working at General Tire and Rubber Company in Waco, said Donald Cernosek, who worked with Adair as mill operators until the plant closed in the late 1980s.
    "He's kind of quiet, but he's always joking about something," said Cernosek, now an insurance agent in West who was busy on Monday handling claims for victims of the blast.
    West Fertilizer Co was in financial distress when Adair bought it nine years ago and farmers worried about losing a local resource for the supplies needed to grow corn, wheat and milo, several people said. Plant employees mixed fertilizers for farmers based on tests of their soil samples.
    The fertilizer facility had an appraised market value of $908,400 when he bought it in 2004, according to McLennan County property tax records. By last year, its appraised value had fallen to $723,771, although it was not clear why.
    The stable of Adair family businesses also includes Adair Grain, which is the parent company of West Fertilizer, and Adair Farms. Adair owns some 5,000 acres of cropland and grassland in the area, Keeney said, which according to local tax records would be worth several million dollars at market prices.
    MANAGEMENT LEFT TO OTHERS
    Adair left the day-to-day operations at West Fertilizer to the plant's 13 employees, including general manager Ted Uptmore Sr., who has been employed by the company for 50 years, Keeney and others said.
    Uptmore ran the fertilizer part of the company, while Andrew "Rusty" Kwast, Adair's son-in-law, ran the grain side, Keeney said. Adair continued to work his farm, the spokesman said.
    The Adair family have been among the biggest recipients in the area of farm subsidy payments from the federal government. Donald Adair received $874,522 during the period 1995 to 2011 and his son Gary received more than $1.2 million in subsidies during the period, according to a database of U.S. government data compiled by the Environmental Working Group.
    Adair's neighbors said West Fertilizer did brisk business at this time of year from farmers from a wide radius around West, selling dry fertilizer or tanks of anhydrous ammonia.

    Local residents also said they knew that handling fertilizer was a potentially dangerous business.
    West Fertilizer disclosed to a Texas state agency that, as of the end of 2012, the company was storing 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, mixed with other compounds to produce a dry fertilizer. The same type of solid fertilizer was mixed with fuel and used by Timothy McVeigh to raze the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people.
    West Fertilizer had been fined occasionally for regulatory violations since Adair bought it, but a Texas state environmental official described its safety record as "average."
    A search of federal and state legal records did not turn up any lawsuits against Adair personally or any of his companies.
    Cernosek, the local insurance agent, was quick to defend Adair's reputation even though his home 500 yards from the plant is likely a total loss.
    "Hell no," he said when asked if he held Adair responsible for what happened at the plant. "I in no way will ever file a lawsuit due to any of this."
    But the lack of lawsuits may soon change. A Dallas law firm Baron & Budd, which was involved in BP oil spill litigation, has set up a toll free number for victims of the West explosion to contact them about possible legal challenges.
    Some residents still had unanswered questions in the difficult, soul-searching days after the blast, among them Emily Polansky, who lives about half a mile from the plant and had her windows smashed when it blew. Walking with the aid of a cane, she puzzled over how the fire took hold after workers had left the plant and wondered about supervision.
    "I feel maybe there was a lack of supervision possibly on the management's part with employees working there ... maybe there weren't safety precautions taken for dealing with anhydrous ammonia and (ammonium) nitrate," Polansky, a farmer's wife who is well-versed in fertilizers, told Reuters at the hotel where she is staying while she is kept out of her damaged home.
    But resident Chuck Smith, who helped neighbors leave their homes amid the dark smoke and acrid fumes after the blast, was not prepared to point a finger at the Adairs.
    "When all is said and done, they call them accidents for a reason. I mean the people that work there, the people that own that place, that go there ... all of them were raised here, have kids here, have family here," he said. "There was no malicious intent. There was no trying to skimp."
    (Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Greg McCune and Vicki Allen)
    http://news.yahoo.com/texas-town-hol...070258463.html

  2. #2

  3. #3
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    Why would they hold a grudge when it hasn't been proven he did anything wrong?

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Piper View Post
    Why would they hold a grudge when it hasn't been proven he did anything wrong?
    Sure......


    The facility in West could house more than half a million pounds of the same powdered fertilizer that blew up the ship. It's the same substance that's routinely used as an industrial explosive to create farm ponds or enlarge quarries. And it's what Timothy McVeigh used to destroy the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168.

    This is not a substance to be treated lightly. But the owners of West Fertilizer seem not to have recognized the dangers. In a report they filed in 2011, the worst-case scenario they could imagine was a 10-minute release of anhydrous ammonia gas, a related fertilizer component, from a storage tank.
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinio...bates/2111109/

  5. #5

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by AlbanyJet View Post
    4 wasted minutes of my life I'll never get back.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by cr726 View Post
    4 wasted minutes of my life I'll never get back.
    You have no life so don't worry about it...

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by DeanPatsFan View Post
    You have no life so don't worry about it...
    Brietbart wishes he had my life.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by cr726 View Post
    Brietbart wishes he had my life.
    I don't.....

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by DeanPatsFan View Post
    I don't.....
    Why would you start making educated decisions now?

  11. #11
    Breibert told the truth the way he saw it. Have there been any federal charges against the owner yet? If not he is still innocent.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by MnJetFan View Post
    Breibert told the truth the way he saw it. Have there been any federal charges against the owner yet? If not he is still innocent.
    Breibart is dead and the 12 firefighters who were killed I'm sure would of like to have known what plant actually had in their facility.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by cr726 View Post
    Breibart is dead and the 12 firefighters who were killed I'm sure would of like to have known what plant actually had in their facility.
    Those firefighters were let down by their officers/superiors as much as anybody. Any competent fire department pre-plans every significant structure in their area of coverage, including inspections to determine such hazards and/or outright violations.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by cr726 View Post
    Why would you start making educated decisions now?
    The irony of this post almost made my head explode.

    Think about the accusations you're making here, with an obvious lack knowledge of how plants of this nature operate or the materials within, and an attempt to back them with an almost equally ignorant opinion piece from USA Today. Then read again what you wrote.

    Or continue raving on about a deceased man who has nothing to do with this topic whatsoever.

    Whatever floats your mindless boat.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by shakin318 View Post
    Those firefighters were let down by their officers/superiors as much as anybody. Any competent fire department pre-plans every significant structure in their area of coverage, including inspections to determine such hazards and/or outright violations.
    http://www.fireengineering.com/artic...-prepared.html

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by JetPotato View Post
    The irony of this post almost made my head explode.

    Think about the accusations you're making here, with an obvious lack knowledge of how plants of this nature operate or the materials within, and an attempt to back them with an almost equally ignorant opinion piece from USA Today. Then read again what you wrote.

    Or continue raving on about a deceased man who has nothing to do with this topic whatsoever.

    Whatever floats your mindless boat.
    The plant itself stated the worst thing that may occur is a 10 minutes gas release and I'm the ignorant one?

    There still hasn't been an official statement about how the fire started and once again you, the smug dork wants to attack me.

  17. #17
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    Firefighters being trained and prepared is not the issue. They will do their job and respond to any situation. The issue is that the situation should not have existed in the first place. Inspections by the fire service, whether at the department level or by the Fire Marshal, should have revealed the hazard and determined its legality/illegality.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by cr726 View Post
    Breibart is dead and the 12 firefighters who were killed I'm sure would of like to have known what plant actually had in their facility.
    http://www.fireengineering.com/artic...-prepared.html

  19. #19
    Read My Words There have been no charges YET! Innocent till proven quilty or is that not in a liberal state of mind!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by shakin318 View Post
    Firefighters being trained and prepared is not the issue. They will do their job and respond to any situation. The issue is that the situation should not have existed in the first place. Inspections by the fire service, whether at the department level or by the Fire Marshal, should have revealed the hazard and determined its legality/illegality.
    Exactly.

    Regulations and then careful inspections to make sure that the regulations were being followed would have prevented this.

    A business left unchecked will do dangerous things to make a profit.

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