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Safety top priority at local fertilizer plants

Published On: Apr 18 2013 06:38:54 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 18 2013 07:39:10 PM CDT
Texas Plant explosion

Mike Stone/Reuters

Smoke rises as water is sprayed at the burning remains of a fertilizer plant after an explosion at the plant in the town of West, Texas, early April 18, 2013.

Explosion at Texas plant Texas plant explosion Texas plant explosion Explosion at Texas plant Texas plant explosion Texas plant explosion

As the area around the site of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant that flattened much of the small Texas town of West remains "very volatile," some in our local agricultural community are wondering if it could happen here.

At AG Enterprises Supply in Cheney they have about 100 tons of fertilizer, and they say at this plant, as well as other fertilizer plants, safety is always a main priority.

Like many industries that handle sensitive products -- or heavy machinery -- AG Enterprises owner Gary Farrell said the agriculture business is the safest.

"Sometimes things can happen that are certainly outside of our control. We try and be as pre-emptive and we try and maintain our equipment and facilities as in top shape as we can," Farrell said.

The fertilizer at the West, Texas plant is called anhydrous ammonia, and is known to be the most efficient source to help grow crops. Farrell doesn't own any but says its non-flammable and wouldn't cause an explosion on its own.

"When something like this happens it certainly pulls all of our hearts and thoughts together of what can be done to serve better," Farrell said.

Washington is a leader in the fertilizer safety, Farrell added. Companies specifically train their employees how to handle different types of fertilizer. Farrell even said the  EPA has visited AG Enterprises to see how the state's safety standards are put into action.

"Washington state takes a very strong interest in how we handle products, and how we store products, and we work hand in hand with them," Jay Geisinger with AG Enterprises said.

What happened in West, Texas is extremely rare but local firefighters said Thursday if something like that does happen here they have plans in place to try and contain it.