Photo: Hussein Malla, AP
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The chemical compound that exploded in Beirut, which killed more than 100 and leveled buildings miles away, could be stored in your own neighborhood.
But the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t want you to know where.
Tuesday’s blast in Lebanon was likely fueled by ammonium nitrate, which is typically used in fertilizer. Lebanese authorities say nearly 2,700 tons of the compound were left sitting in the port for years before it exploded, according to the Associated Press.
The explosion sent a shockwave pulsing through the city and left behind a trail of death and destruction in a country already ravaged by COVID-19 and economic unrest.
The United States – Texas in particular – has a destructive history with the compound, to say the least.
In 1947, nearly 600 people were killed in Texas City when 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded on freighters in the water. In 2013, 15 people were killed and hundreds of others were injured when a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas.
After the West explosion, the Obama administration enacted rules that tightened investigations into incidents and made public the list of chemicals stored at facilities across the country – including the explosive ammonium nitrate.
In a city like Houston, where chemical incidents happen once every six days, it was a silver lining to know which chemicals were stored in our own back yards. If anything, it provided peace of mind and transparency about the chemical companies and massive corporations that often creep up to our back porch.
But in 2019, the Trump administration rolled back the regulations to save $88 million, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Simply knowing what chemicals exist in our city won’t stop them from exploding, but relaxing regulations designed to allow more oversight from people and their government won’t either.