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Texas Fertilizer Explosion Tragic but Rare

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Details are still hard to find amidst the chaos and search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the explosion at West Fertilizer Company in the farming town of West, Texas Wednesday night. The Fertilizer Institute’s Vice President of Public Affairs Kathy Mathers says they believe some type of nitrogen was part of the explosion since it is handled in the facility but other details and why it occurred are uncertain. What is certain is that the incident is very rare and the industry will learn from it if possible.

“I’ve been here with TFI for 23 years and have never seen anything like this in our industry and never even anything close to this. It catches everyone’s attention because it is completely foreign to our industry so our folks will be looking at this trying to figure out what happened and if there are lessons to be learned that we do learn from them and stay open to looking and investigating what happened.”

Mathers says farmers need to make sure they secure any fertilizer they have on hand and use caution when transporting their own fertilizer.

President of Indiana Farm Bureau Don Villwock said the state of Indiana has a tremendous safety track record.

“Fertilizer facilities are pretty commonplace scattered across rural Indiana. Many have been relocated outside of cities and towns and many of those for safety concerns, let alone logistical concerns. They’re not tied to railroad tracks like they once were many years ago because most fertilizer is trucked in today.”

Both granular fertilizer and anhydrous ammonia are trucked and anhydrous ammonia “is the number one nitrogen source in the state of Indiana,” Villwock says. “So I’m very proud of our fertilizer industry and how seriously they all take safety training and the well-being of everyone. We have much to be proud of and I don’t think we should have any concerns whatsoever in the Midwest.”

What the Texas explosion means for Midwest supplies is still unknown at this time. As Villwock explains we’re still trying to learn if that plant was feeding a pipeline and if it might have fed into our part of the country.

(Photo: Brad Loper/Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer)