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Still no warehouse registries in the Valley

Last week, Americans watched in horror as video out of Lebanon showed a terrifying explosion in Beirut, which led to the deaths of more than 130 people and thousands injured. What kind of new weapon are terrorists using now? What could inflict that kind of devastation?

By the end of the week we knew the the real culprit was likely something much more frightening — plain old bureaucratic corruption and incompetence. Now, 16 Beirut port and customs officials have been detained, as the Lebanese government tries to figure out how 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate had been stored (forgotten) for years before being set off by what otherwise would have been a relatively minor fire at the port. Ammonium nitrate is commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer; and this particular batch had been confiscated from a Russian cargo ship in 2013.

It appears only one official was aware enough of the danger to have been repeatedly issuing warnings over the years, and that person was ignored. Lebanese citizens are right to be furious that such a thing could be allowed to happen. How could no one else have realized the potentially deadly chemical was still being stored in the warehouse?

Good question. In fact, a question many Mid-Ohio Valley residents would be right to ask of the many warehouses and storage facilities in our own backyards. It has been a little less than three years since a warehouse fire in Parkersburg burned for more than a week while residents were unable to get answers about what was burning. While we were fortunate it was not ammonium nitrate, there is really no reason it couldn’t have been.

Yet there are STILL no warehouse registries that would give residents — and first responders — a quick way to find out what is being stored … maybe miles away, maybe in the next lot over. As we saw in Beirut, that lack of information is deadly.

Perhaps the horror of that video will spur lawmakers to do the right thing and establish warehouse registries as quickly as possible.

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