Bosque County: Officials Talk Ammonium Nitrate Facility Safety

By: Matt Howerton Email
By: Matt Howerton Email

BOSQUE COUNTY (December 12, 2013) BOSQUE COUNTY (December 12, 2013) Bosque County and the State Fire Marshal’s Office were hosting a meeting Thursday in Clifton on ammonium nitrate facility safety to review best practices for storage of ammonium nitrate including facility management, and response strategies of first responders.

The meeting is the first of a series scheduled in the aftermath of the deadly April 17 ammonium nitrate explosion at West Fertilizer Company.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office says Bosque County was chosen for its first meeting because of its similarity to West’s community.

There are three ammonium nitrate facilities in Bosque County, the fire marshal’s office said, and officials want to determine what assistance county officials may need to help prevent in incident such as the deadly April 17 fertilizer plant explosion in West.

Statewide, the fire marshal’s office has identified 104 facilities in 68 counties that store more than 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate.

One of the Bosque County sites, RPA Agribusiness owned by Robert Payne, had about 15,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate on site this week, but Payne said the amount varies depending on the time of year.

The facility is about the length of a football field away from downtown Clifton.

When asked, many residents in Clifton didn’t know that much ammonium nitrate was kept near the city.

“It’s kind of scary. We drive near it every day, and never once thought about it,” resident Terry Creighton said.

“It’s hard not to think about West and what happened.”

Payne keeps the ammonium nitrate in a concrete silo that has a locked gate as recommended by the state, but officials say such precautions aren’t taken at many other sites.

“All of the sites in Bosque County are fairly up to standards. But most facilities in Texas we’ve seen are wooden and are easily combustible,” State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy said.

At the meeting, Connealy reiterated the safety first responders should take if a fire were to encompass an ammonium nitrate facility like the one in West.

In almost all situations, the protocol for many first responders is to support an evacuation.

“We don't want to lose any more firefighters and we don't want to lose any more civilians," Connealy said.

"The impact to West was horrific."

Payne has invited Clifton volunteer firefighters to hold drills at the facility, just in case.

"The more Clifton knows, the better prepared they will be if an accident were to happen," he said.

"I've been around ammonium nitrate all my life. Common sense must be used when storing it, hands down."

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