Large quantity of ammonium nitrate still in downtown Athens - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Large quantity of ammonium nitrate still in downtown Athens

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Covered Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer (Source: KLTV Staff) Covered Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer (Source: KLTV Staff)
ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - The Athens City Council will meet next week to discuss the city ordinance concerning the storage of dangerous materials within city limits. It’s been one week since the East Texas Ag Supply storage building burned to the ground. Inside the facility was ammonium nitrate fertilizer. That’s the same fertilizer that was stored in the West, Texas plant that exploded last year.

Many local business owners in Athens are surprised to learn that a large quantity of ammonium nitrate fertilizer is still in the charred remains of the storage building downtown.

Christi Barrett runs an art gallery just one block from where the fertilizer facility once stood.

She said she had no idea the building was storing tons of ammonium nitrate.

“We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 artists involved in this place at all times and their lives are in here, their hard work, everything that they put into their art is in here,” she said.

Now that she knows most of the fertilizer is still there, she said it makes her feel uneasy.

“It makes me want to cancel my children's class, move, find another place for the gallery. I think a lot of people feel the same way if they don't get rid of it,” said Barrett.

Athens Fire Chief John McQueary said cleanup and removal of the fertilizer has been delayed.

“We have recently found that the owner has liability insurance. That insurance agency is going to bring out one of their investigative crew members and he is going to look at that scene tomorrow,” said Chief McQueary.

He said once that investigation is complete, it will be the owner’s responsibility to remove the fertilizer.

“The owner will come in with a dozer and re-blend that product and reduce the volume of nitrogen in there to less than 28 percent. Then we can unload and move the product,” he said.

The state fire marshal determined that the cause of the fire was due to an electrical failure. It's still under investigation and the Athens fire department said there should be a full report by June 26, 2014.

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