Fertilizer facility explosions unlikely in Alabama

Fertilizer facility explosions unlikely in Alabama

(WTVM) - Experts at Auburn University say the likelihood of a fertilizer related incident similar to the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people and injured nearly 200 more is extremely small in Alabama.

This is because two products that have been linked to the blast, anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate, are either not used or extremely rare in the state.

"Ammonium nitrate is a very powerful oxidant and it is also a very good fertilizer that was once used throughout North America and especially Alabama and Georgia to fertilize all of our crops," explains Charles Mitchell, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System agronomy and soils specialist and Auburn University professor of agronomy and soils

Several days after the blast, investigators discovered the plant was storing over 1,300 times the amount of ammonium nitrate required for oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In Mitchell's opinion, the explosion was an accident.

"We have a lot of things that are oxidizers in our everyday lives. We just have to be careful and there are laws and regulations, but sometimes even with the best intentions, accidents do happen," says Mitchell.

Ammonium nitrate is also the way many tragedies in the United States have been accomplished including the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

"After the Oklahoma City bombing tighter restrictions were placed on the sale, distribution and transportation of ammonium nitrate so that today very little of it is being used," explains Mitchell.

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