BRIDGEWATER TOWNSHIP — It’s still not clear what caused a devastating explosion that just about leveled a small town in Texas. Between five and 15 people are believed to be dead and more than 150 injured.
There is at least one fertilizing blending facility here in our area. Andre and Son Incorporated is right outside of Montrose in Susquehanna County. The place has been in business for about 100 years. In that time, the fertilizer plant has had no major incidents, but that said safety is still a top priority.
Joe Andre and his family have been in the fertilizing blending business in Susquehanna County for nearly 100 years. This third generation business owner says the 50 to 60 tons of fertilizer his company produces each day is made up of three basic elements.
“Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the basis of most fertilizers and it’s just like making a cake,” said Andre. “We take a certain amount of each ingredient to make a given analysis.”
As crews work to sift through the debris at West Fertilizer Plant in Texas, many questions still remain. The massive explosion is under investigation and emergency officials are looking into whether or not anhydrous ammonia mixed with water used to fight the fire could have led to the deadly explosion.
“Putting water and ammonium nitrate together usually you have to have something that confines the two to make it a dangerous product. Firegfighters will use water to cool other tanks to keep them from exploding. Too soon to speculate, shouldn’t second guess first responders,” said Chief Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management.
But you won’t find any of that chemical at Andre and Son’s facility because it’s not meant for the type of soil you’ll find in northeast Pennsylvania.
“We do not use it and it is not used in the area at all. It is a nitrogen source used commonly in the Midwest.”
Although none of these materials inside Andre & Son is flammable, they do have an emergency plan on file with the local fire department just in case anything else were to go wrong.
“All of our buildings with their plan show fire extinguishers, show heating plants, road access, electrical entrances and so forth.”
If a fire were to break out Andre says crews would contain a blaze, but use minimal water to avoid polluting the ground with fertilizer. And in their 99 years of operation, thankfully, those emergency plans haven’t been put into action.
“We’ve escaped without any problem so far.”
In Texas, emergency crews still are working to determine exactly what caused the fire and deadly explosion at the fertilizer plant there and if the chemical anhydrous ammonia might have played a role in this tragedy.