Explosion like that in Texas unlikely at local fertilizer plants

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by OTHELLO RICHARDS & KREM.com

NWCN.com

Posted on April 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 8:52 AM

WHITMAN COUNTY, Wash. -- There are a number of fertilizer distributors in the Inland Northwest, like the one in Tekoa.

It sits not far from elementary school and Tekoa High School, where Principal Dan Hutton is also a volunteer firefighter. Hutton says the threat of a massive explosion like that in Texas is highly unlikely in Whitman County.

The fertilizer facility in Tekoa is primarily for storage and distribution, not production like the West, Texas plant. The production component carries more hazards, according to Hutton.

“I don’t think there are huge amounts of chemicals stored at any given time at our local plant,” he said. “Sure, there are always dangers associated with any kind of chemical, but we have plans in place to deal with those types of things, and the companies follow very strict regulations. We’ve been doing it for a lot of years, with very, very few problems.”

Hutton adds the main threat in the community is a slow gas leak out of one of the Anhydrous Ammonia takes or a distribution truck parked for the night.

He says emergency crews have techniques to disperse the gas and evacuations plans in place at the school if there is a threat.

Wilbur-Ellis Company, an international marketer and distributor of agricultural products with sites in Washington, released a statement Thursday about their thoughts on the Texas explosion.

It reads:

"Due to the recent Texas fertilizer plant accident, we understand that there may be questions and concerns among the communities we serve about some of the products and technologies we use to help our customers grow crops.  Wilbur-Ellis has operated continually for 92 years with the highest integrity, and we have always had a strong commitment to environmental, health and safety practices.  We continue to make significant investments in this area, and we follow all local, state and federal laws.

We want to assure our communities in which we live and work that we have a strong commitment to environmental stewardship, safety of our facilities and products, and that we only adhere to the highest standards of operating in our business.  In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people in the community of West, Texas that have been impacted by this tragic event."

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