Holland: Officials Focus On Local Fertilizer Plant In Wake Of West Explosion

By: Rachel Cox Email
By: Rachel Cox Email

HOLLAND (April 23, 2013)—Holland officials are considering the safety of a fertilizer plant in the Bell County town in the wake of the deadly April 17 explosion in West.

Simplot Grower Solutions operates in Holland.

Mayor Mae Smith said she was still in shock about what happened in West and said that if something like that were to ever happen in Holland it would also be devastating.

"To be honest with you yes, it would probably take our whole town," Smith said.

Smith said since the plant changed ownership a few years back city officials were made aware of changes at the facility that included a security fence, but also said that state inspections of the plant are not brought to the attention of officials.

"I hope the state is doing their job OK, that's what I hope because really in our small towns we almost can't keep up with that but it would be nice if they sent us that it has been inspected," Smith said.

Simplot Company would not comment on inspections at the plant or the types of fertilizers on site but issued the following statement:

"Our hearts go out to the people of West, Texas, as they struggle to recover from last week's tragic incident.

There is nothing more important to the J. R. Simplot Company than the safety of our employees and communities. This is why we are so diligent in everything we do every day to ensure the safety of our operations. Like the rest of the public, we are waiting for the investigation of the West, Texas, incident to be completed so that we understand the facts related to this terrible occurrence."

Holland Fire Chief Coleman Benner said he's taken tours of the fertilizer plant and talked with the manager about what types of chemicals are stored there.

Benner said while he stays updated on the fertilizer plant he is concerned about what is being transported in rail cars on the railroad tracks that are located in Holland.

"What comes down this railroad track to my east or what's transported by truck up and down the highway because there is some bad stuff that's transported down that way, don't get me wrong we take precautions with the fertilizer plant we want to stay well abreast with what's going on up there and they do cooperate," Benner said.

"I don't worry more about it more than I do about this railroad and the derailment and the chemicals they haul through our town and we had two derailments within a 3-month period in our town a few years ago right here beside where we're talking," Smith said while standing near downtown Tuesday.

The city of Holland utilizes a reverse 911 system in the event of an emergency.

Under that system residents who have signed up for the service will get a robocall to their designated phone number with a message informing them about the situation.

"I'd say within 20 minutes every phone in our town will ring with a message; you can't knock on doors faster than that," Smith said.

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