Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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May 12, 2013

Could it happen here? Emergency, industrial watchdogs await West report

Corsicana — Fertilizer plant officials and emergency responders are in limbo now, at least until the state and federal investigators issue a report on what happened April 17 in West. For officials with the Eldorado fertilizer company and local rescue workers it’s a matter of covering their bases until they have more information.

Eldorado has a plant at 100 N. Seventh Street in Corsicana where the ammonium nitrate is kept in wooden bins next to the pot ash and other agricultural products.

“The incident that happened in West is totally atypical,” said John Carver, a spokesman for Eldorado. The company has 15 plants across Texas. “Under normal conditions ammonium nitrate is not explosive, period. You can take a hammer to it. You can take a torch to it. It’s just not explosive under normal conditions. There’s something peculiar that happened in West to cause that ammonium nitrate to explode, and right now none of us know.”

In the meantime, the company is bringing in a consulting firm that specializes in risk evaluation and risk engineering to visit each of the company’s sites, Carver said.

“They’re going to visit each one of our locations and get a different set of eyes on each of our locations, where we store material, how we store it and things like that,” Carver said. “We are doing that while we await the cause of the explosion in West.”

Eldorado’s Carver said he and others in the industry hope the various investigative agencies will release a cause report for the West explosion quickly.

“If there’s something we need to be aware of as an industry we need to know soon so we can go ahead and make whatever adjustments that need to be done,” he said.

Emergency responses

Companies aren’t alone in anxiously looking to the ATF and Texas Fire Marshall’s Office for answers on the explosion. Fire and emergency responders are also wondering what they can do better in a similar scenario.

Planning for those scenarios is up to the Corsicana Fire Department and the Navarro County Emergency Management Operations Coordinator Eric Meyers.

To prepare for contingencies, the Corsicana Fire Department has a rough floorplan of each of the city’s industrial facilities, indicating things firefighters will need to know, such as locations for electricity and gas mains, explained Fire Chief Donald McMullan.

“We have pre–fire plans,” McMullan said. “When we got out and inspect a facility they do a pre-fire plan. It has entrances and exits, hydrants. It’s a simplified blueprint that has the key factors we need, like gas shut-offs. If we have a haz–mat cabinet or room, or a large facility like Corsicana Tech, we rely on their safety people.”

“Overall, we get great cooperation from them,” he said.

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