How safe are Bay area fertilizer plants? - WFLA News Channel 8

How safe are Bay area fertilizer plants?

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Mosaic fertilizer plant in Bartow Mosaic fertilizer plant in Bartow
BARTOW, FL (WFLA) -

Some of the local fertilizer plants are unmistakable.  With their massive green mounds and large excavating equipment, it's a huge undertaking. 

Long railway lines lead to a massive industrial complex in Bartow where fertilizer is made.  Around 2.2 million tons of fertilizer are produced there each year.  Mosaic has two of these plants in Polk County and one in Hillsborough. There are also a few more around the state.

George Katzaras, the general manager of the Bartow facility, says it's unlikely an explosion like the one in Texas would happen here.

"The fertilizer products that Mosaic uses and produces are non-flammable, they're not explosive," says Katzaras.

One of the chemicals used in the process at Mosaic is anhydrous ammonia, which was also stored at the West, Texas plant.

Katzaras says the chemical is safely transported to the Bartow plant by pipeline in liquid form, which is not flammable.

Katzaras said, "All of those materials are stored separately, and they're managed to make sure that there are no potential risks of combining those materials in any way other than that's designed in our process."

Polk County Fire Rescue is still playing it safe.

"While we're fairly confident that an explosion like this would not happen in Polk County, we do plan for it," said Deputy Chief Mike Linkins.  "Although Polk County does have several of these phosphate facilities, they're very heavily regulated by local, state and federal government agencies."

Linkins says first responders train for worst-case scenarios at the plants.  "We always hope for the best but we plan for the worst," he said.

The workers at Mosaic go through regular inspections and drills. Officials say they're prepared, but they add that if an accident were to occur, the plants are all located away from cites.

"Our saving grace is that many of these plants are outside of our cities, they're in very rural areas, sparsely populated," said Linkins.

Once the investigation at the Texas plant is finished, Mosaic will have access to the data.

Mosaic officials will study the findings to see what more can be done to prevent a similar tragedy here.

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