MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 22, 2013

Fertilizer plants go without oversight


Associated Press

— TULSA (AP) — Fertilizer manufacturers in Oklahoma are not inspected for general safety and are only regulated if there is a spill or emission, two state agencies said.

Oklahoma has several fertilizer manufacturing plants, including one of the largest of its type in the country in Verdigris. The CF Industries plant there is the “largest UAN (Urea and Ammonium Nitrate) production facility in North America with the capacity to produce more than 5,600 tons per day,” according to the company’s website.

Last week, a fertilizer plant explosion killed 14 people and injured 200 more in West, Texas. The West Fertilization Co. stored and distributed anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer that can be directly injected into soil and is flammable.

Following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, state legislators gave extra authority to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to regulate sales and storage of fertilizer. But Lance Kunneman, the fertilizer program administrator for that department, said the agency’s regulatory power is limited to spill response.

Kunneman told the Tulsa World that his department regularly inspects silos and grain elevators once the final product is made and on the market to track sales.

“Basically, any (non-manufacturing) facility that handles ammonium nitrate — which since the Murrah Building are fewer and fewer every year — they have to keep these (sales) records for two years,” Kunneman said. “We do audits on them four times a year.”