Spencer, IA: Sixteen years after issuing an advisory on the explosive hazard posed by ammonium nitrate (A-N), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and two other federal agencies issued a detailed new advisory.
The new advisory, issued August 30th, follows the April explosion at West Fertilizer Company that killed 15 people and injured some 200 in the small town near Waco, Texas.
This latest bulletin details what has been learned about ammonium nitrate storage from the recent tragedy.
The alert talks about the importance of building design for A-N storage, including the need to contain automatic sprinklers. Buildings storing A-N should use fire-resistant walls within 50 feet of “combustible building or materials.” Flooring in storage and handling areas should be constructed of non-combustible materials.
The alert says to avoid storing A-N where the temperature of the product may exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
The alert also said fire service and other emergency responders should visit facilities where A-N is stored, saying reliance on a report may not always be sufficient.
Firefighters in West were aware within minutes that they would be unable to safely fight a fire at the fertilizer company. They were in retreat when the ammonium nitrate exploded.