OSHA issued a press release on Friday, March 30, 2012 with its findings from the October 3, 2011 fire at the Magnablend central facility on Hwy 287 in Waxahachie, Texas. KRLD 1080 broke the news at 2:00 p.m.
OSHA cited Magnablend with seven serious violations. OSHA considers serious violations to include a "substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."
Rather than confront media questions, Brett Shipp with WFAA reported during the 6:00 p.m. broadcast that Magnablend CEO Scott Pendery darted into a building and refused to talk to the media.
However, WFAA reported during the 10:00 p.m. broadcast that Magnablend claims it did not knowingly violate regulations. If Magnablend knowingly ignored the claims made by OSHA, then it shows the company had complete disregard for the safety of its employees and for the community surrounding the central facility. Additionally, if Magnablend's claims are true that it did not knowingly ignore the claims made by OSHA, then it reinforces the belief by Waxahachie and Ellis County residents that Magnablend management is incompetent, including CEO Scott Pendery.
OSHA stated "OSHA’s Fort Worth Area Office found that employees were exposed to fire hazards due to inadequate ventilation, which can create an accumulation of flammable vapors that lead to a fire or explosion. The violations are failing to conduct a hazard assessment, install a sufficient ventilation system, train workers in specific hazardous chemical protection procedures, evaluate respiratory inhalation hazards, ensure that the fire sprinkler system was adequate, use electrical equipment in accordance with its labeling, document the classification of hazardous locations for electrical purposes and ensure that electrical equipment was considered safe for the location where it was used. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known."
OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $45,000. These penalties are insufficient as to the risk that Magnablend exposed its workers and the Waxahachie community to. Thankfully no workers were killed or seriously injured. However, residents have complained of health problems as a result of the fire, which have gone unanswered by Magnablend. In fact, Magnablend's CEO, Scott Pendery, dismissed them as psychological effects related to the smell and compared the health problems to smelling puke in a room and having a reaction due to the smell.
Previously, Pendery stated that Magnablend complies with OSHA, TCEQ, and other regulatory requirements. However, this latest report from OSHA proves otherwise. Residents near the old Superconducting Super Collider property that Magnablend purchased this year are now more worried about what is moving next door in their residential and agricultural area that the Ellis County Commissioners' Court made possible by modifying deed restrictions on the property on December 12, 2011.
The Ellis County Commissioners' Court modified a deed restriction shortly after the total destruction of Magnablend's central plant in Waxahachie. Residents had already been complaining about the lack of safety, pointing out the lies told by Magnablend, and raising issues of health concerns. TCEQ and OSHA had not yet completed their final investigations into the fire, but the Ellis County Commissioners' Court chose to make it possible for Magnablend to move into an area that requires less regulation and oversight.
It is unconscionable to residents that the Ellis County Commissioners' Court would make such a decision when the lives of an estimated 30 employees and the health of the entire community and surrounding communities were put at risk. This is the largest environmental disaster to affect Waxahachie and the biggest threat to the health of the community that residents can remember in this area.
Residents feel betrayed by their county government, lack of concern for finding what caused the environmental disaster, and ignoring the safety of residents going forward. Residents who have already been experiencing problems and continue to experience also feel as if they have been ignored by the local government and Magnablend.
Questions have also been raised by residents as to Pendery's ability to operate a hazardous chemical company after only a few months as CEO and becoming partners in the operation with three venture capital firms. Residents feel that growth and profits come before the well-being of the community. Residents believe a $45,000 fine by OSHA will only be considered "the cost of doing business" by Magnablend.
Pendery stated previously that the company experienced growing pains, which is a reason why it failed to request an update to a TCEQ permit for its powder facility located on Marvin Ave prior to being cited by TCEQ for violating its existing permits.
It has also been reported that the company chose to mix a new batch of wastewater treatment chemicals in excess of any prior tests at the central plant, which further supports the claim of growing pains and also supports residents' concerns that growth and profits outweigh the safety concerns of the community, including its employees.
Magnablend is scheduled to participate and hold an exhibit at an oil and gas resource convention in Fort Worth between April 23-25. The conference is called DUG. This further supports resident concerns that Magnablend is seeking to further expand rapidly. Pendery has already complained about having to put customers on hold and has stated that he does not expect customers to wait forever for the company to rebuild its operations.
This is significant because on the day of the fire, October 3 last year, Magnablend told the media and the EPA that the majority of its operations were for the agricultural industry. However, when pressed by Brett Shipp of WFAA the following day, Pendery admitted that the majority of what the company produced was for the oil and gas industry, including blending chemicals for the fracking industry.
Residents have seen the OSHA press release and are not pleased to say the least. Next up will be the final TCEQ report in April.
As Pendery told residents previously, the results of the fire will come out. Scott Pendery, YES THEY HAVE and the results are showing you to be the cold-hearted soul that cares very little for this community that residents have believed you to be.
Until residents' concerns are addressed and the situation is resolved rather than ignored, residents near Magnablend's existing facilities believe they are living next to ticking time bombs and residents near the SSC property feel they are the next ones in line to be considered an acceptable risk to Magnablend.
Will it take a death or multiple deaths to change the course of Magnablend; we hope not.