Vandalia Leader

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MFA says safety is key to local fertilizer plant

Posted on Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 10:47 am

Just two days after the world was captivated by the bombings during the Boston Marathon, another shocking event took place in Central Texas when a fertilizer plant exploded.
The blast killed 14 and injured 200 people while scores of nearby homes and businesses were damage or destroyed.
The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.
Speculation for the blast centers around West Fertilizer’s fire reacting with abnormal amounts of ammonium nitrate stored at the location. In fact, the New York Daily News is reporting that the facility allegedly stored 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that normally triggers safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Though the reason for the explosion has yet to be determined,  many Vandalia area residents might be wondering if their town could have a similar experience with a fertilizer plant located in town.
Janice Schuerman, MFA Senior Vice-President of Corporate Services, said one challenge in assessing the Texas situation is not knowing exactly what happened.
Though she didn’t have the engineering specs in front of her when interviewed by The Vandalia Leader, she did point to MFA’s safety history as a focal point of each location in Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas.
“We have a  number (of fertilizer plants) throughout our trade territory,” she said. “We operate with safety and compliance on our mind. This is not a new issue. We have an entire department that works on safety and environmental issues. They go out and train locations and train personnel and provide information to local fire departments and agencies.”
She said MFA has 128 safety coordinators at locations to make sure messages are taken to every location’s safety meeting.
She noted that a list is provided every month for safety items needing inspected.
The local facility does have anhydrous ammonia nearby, which is considered nonflammable by the Department of Transportation.
Though according to, it is used as the nitrogen source in fertilizer. Ammonia vapor in high concentrations will burn and the fire hazard increases by the presence of oil and other combustible materials.