Kansas Officials Reflect On Fertilizer Plant Safety

(WIBW) Kansas regulators say a situation like the massive fertilizer plant exposion in West, Texas is rare, but the risk does exist.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture says the state has three anhydrous ammonia manufacturing facilities. Two are in Coffeyville, while the other is in Dodge City. Plus, the state has more than 700 licensed bulk storage facilities for the substance.

Rick Wiedmann with the agency's fertilizer program says the greatest public threat is the release of the substance, especially into the air where it can be inhaled. He says anhydrous ammonia can cause severe burns and even death.

Wiedmann says explosions and fires are rarer because it requires a high concentration of anhydrous ammonia in the air coupled with a very high-temperature ignition source. However, he says it is a danger.

The state regulates the storage and safe handling. The actual manufacturing is overseen federally by the EPA and OSHA. All facilities get an annual inspection. Wiedmann says inspectors look to be sure all safety devices, hoses, relief valves, piping and equipment are in good working order with no leaks and within the specified use dates indicated by the manufacturer.

A tank did explode at a Coffeyville facility three years ago, but no one was injured.

An explosion at a facility in West, Texas Wednesday night has killed as many as 15 people and injured 160 others.