Tragic Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Raises Questions, No Answers Yet

Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion 2

With mainstream media outlets jumping all over anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate fertilizer as possible causes of the tragic West Fertilizer Co. plant explosion, fertilizer industry leadership is urging patience and open-mindedness as the investigation proceeds.

“We have no official statement at the moment,” says Kevin Runkle director of regulatory affairs, Illinois Fertilizer And Chemical Association (IFCA). “Like CropLife America, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), we’re still waiting to see what the investigators say. The fire has finally quelled a little bit and they are just now able to get into the facility and start investigating.”

According to Runkle, at present there are just too many variables at play in a comingled facility such as the West Fertilizer Co. facility, operated by Adair Grain Inc. and located in West, TX, a rural community about 20 miles north of Waco.

“I believe the local volunteer fire department was responding to a fire at the facility two hours prior to the explosion, and it looks like that fire got out of control and an explosion occurred due to that fire,” he says. “It looks like this was a grain terminal and ag retail facility rolled into one, so it could have been many different things that caused the explosion. 

What is known about the facility so far is this: a 2006 EPA inspection report resulted in the company receiving a $2,300 fine for not having a risk management plan in place that met federal standards. A separate report highlights EPA documents submitted by the company that estimate the worst-possible scenario of an anhydrous ammonia release from its tanks as “a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.”

Additionally, WacoTrib.com is reporting that in February there was a fire at the plant that resulted in the evacuation of nearby West Intermediate School.

Again, Runkle points out the cause of the explosion has not yet officially been found.

“The media reports all mention anhydrous ammonia being at that facility, and that the emergency responders had concerns about that product, which they should because it is a hazardous material, but right now we need to wait until the investigators find out what caused the explosion because there are just too many variables to make any type of assessment.”

In the meantime, Runkle and IFCA continue to stress the implementation of a full suite of emergency/disaster preparedness plans for all ag retail facilities.

“Anything an ag retail facility can do to proactively address any risks or issues associated with preventing a fire, that’s one of the best things they can do and there are tools out there to help them do that,” says Runkle. “In Illinois, we have a fire prevention plan for ag retailers to use, to go through and assess the potential hazards and dangers associated with a fire occurring, or how to prevent a fire from occurring.

“There are other proactive steps that facilities can take: security measures, fire prevention, hazard review and compliance assessment plans, weekly inspections of the facility and equipment and good housekeeping programs that show the public that they are being proactive in preventing something like this from happening again. These tools are readily available. The Asmark Institute has them available. We at IFCA have them available that we developed for our members here in Illinois that they can use to go in and assess any kinds of hazards or dangers associated with a fire occurring at their facility and to reduce those risks.”

Also important for ag retailers is getting out in front of any possible backlash from local media, citizens or activist groups while the investigation plays out in national headlines.

“We need to assure the public that we’re being proactive to prevent something like this from happening,” he advises. “In terms of communication, probably the best thing to do is keep your neighbors informed ahead of time and work closely with them in the event that there is an emergency. From what we can tell, they are doing the best they can down in Texas. The emergency responders evacuated people and got them out of there and did what they were supposed to do. “

In an email sent this morning to its members, Kathy Mathers, TFI vice president of public affairs, says the organization will refrain from commenting “while we have no specific information on the incident.”

UPDATED AT 2:50 p.m.:

The following information has been released by TFI and the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA):

TFI: Fertilizer Talking Points and Fact

ARA: Crisis Communications Guidelines for responding to Press Inquiries

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerNutrient Management, Conservation Among Topics Covered At Indiana CCA Conference
November 23, 2016
Certified crop advisers, consultants, farmers, agribusiness professionals and students will learn more about nutrient management, soil and water conservation, pest Read More
NutriSphere-N Application
Crop InputsVerdesian: NutriSphere-N Making A Water Quality Difference In Midwest
November 18, 2016
Farmers sitting on the largest aquifer in the United States have learned a thing or two about managing nitrogen (N) Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute Issues Statement On The U.S. Elections
November 10, 2016
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn has issued the following statement on the results of the 2016 elections: “TFI Read More
Fertilizer Storage
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute Hires New Director Of Agronomy
November 4, 2016
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) has hired Dr. Sally Flis as its director of agronomy, a new position created to support Read More
Trending Articles
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Wilco
CropLife 100Valley Agronomics, Wilco-Winfield To Form New Agronomy Joint Venture
November 11, 2016
Valley Agronomics LLC, headquartered in Rupert, ID, is a joint venture between Valley Wide Cooperative and Winfield Solutions, LLC. Wilco-Winfield, Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Tim McCardle, ARA Chairman
CropLife 100BRANDT COO Named ARA Chairman
December 5, 2016
BRANDT EVP and Chief Operating Officer Tim McArdle has been named chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) during a Read More
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Receives ResponsibleAg Certification At Mo…
December 5, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis Co., a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution of crop protection products, announces the ResponsibleAg certification Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s…
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
Acceleron B-300 seed coating
Crop InputsThe BioAg Alliance Launches New Yield-Boosting Microbia…
December 5, 2016
As part of their commitment to develop and commercialize innovative microbial solutions for farmers through The BioAg Alliance, Monsanto Co. Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research have announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
ManagementAg Industry Comes Together To Address Climate Change
December 1, 2016
Addressing climate change — and more specifically, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture — can only be achieved through collective Read More
Young soybean field
HerbicidesLiquid Formulation Valor EZ Herbicide Available For 201…
December 1, 2016
Valent U.S.A. Corp. has released Valor EZ; a liquid formulation of the company’s leading herbicide, Valor. Named Valor EZ Herbicide Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
ManagementThe Value Of Cooperatives In Modern Agriculture
December 1, 2016
Editor’s Note: Jaxon Mullinnix of  Lone Tree, IA, was recently named the Iowa state winner of the 2017 GROWMARK essay Read More
AGCO Operator of the Year Tony Kornder
SprayersAGCO Names Tony Kornder Operator Of The Year
December 1, 2016
AGCO Corp. names Tony Kornder with Genesis Growing Solutions in Le Sueur, MN, the 11th annual Operator of the Year. Read More
Chris Henney OABA
ManagementOABA Industry Conference To Provide Outlook For Future …
November 29, 2016
The upcoming Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference is packed with widely-respected speakers and industry professionals, sharing their expertise on a Read More
Corn
InsecticidesMajor Review Finds Neonic Poses Low Risk To Aquatic Inv…
November 28, 2016
A major new ecotoxicological review and risk assessment has been published in the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that registered crop Read More
EquipmentGSI Details New Grain Drying Efficiency System for Coop…
November 28, 2016
Grain elevators and ag co-ops are always looking for ways to increase their energy efficiency to help improve profitability. For Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
AGCO AgControl system
Precision AgPrecision Ag Technology: Rate Control For The Times
November 28, 2016
It’s not surprising that the need for more economical, effective application is driving the demand for the latest rate controllers Read More
ARA
Eric SfiligojTaking The Industry’s Pulse At ARA
November 28, 2016
When most of you read this particular column, many of the industry’s key folks will probably be spending at least Read More