Friday, May 30, 2014

Ammonium Nitrate - Picture Worth a Thousand Words

There is a very scary article at about a fire yesterday at an ammonium nitrate storage facility in Athens, TX. This case did not end with a catastrophic explosion, but it is obvious that it could have.

WFAA has been very active in covering the ammonium nitrate storage problem in Texas. They have been discussing the problems at various storage facilities and specifically this facility. The article has a good gallery of still photos about the fire. One in particular (#10) is particularly concerning. The photo shows the wooden partitions in the ammonium nitrate storage area; these are specifically recommended against by recent a EPA-OSHA ammonium nitrate storage guidance document.

The same picture also shows how easy it would have been to break into the facility to steal ammonium nitrate. According to the WFAA news video report this facility was just registered last year after the West incident. It is not clear what agency that registration was with. If it was DHS and the CFATS program it is unlikely that this facility had yet been visited by DHS chemical security inspectors. That wouldn’t yet be due to the back log of site security inspections; it just takes some time to go through the Top Screen and Security Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) process.

It will be interesting to hear if this facility was actually covered under the CFATS program. It certainly would be covered (due to the ammonium nitrate storage in the middle of town like this) if it had self-reported the presence of the ammonium nitrate. If this facility is not on the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division’s (ISCD) list of covered facilities there will be hell to pay with Congress.

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