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Sarasota County officials react to Texas explosion

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 12:49 pm | Updated: 9:05 pm, Sat Apr 27, 2013.

SARASOTA - While the cause of the Texas fertilizer plant explosion is still under investigation, authorities with the Sarasota County Extension Service says fertilizer plants are typically very safe.

There is one fertilizer plant here in Sarasota, but officials with the SCES say those plants are strictly regulated by both the Environmental Protection agency and other agencies, and the explosion in Texas was a freak accident.

There are different types of fertilizer, but the type the plant in Texas was manufacturing was Ammonium Nitrate, which officials say is the byproduct of a chemical reaction between Ammonium Gas and Nitric Acid.

In a plant like this, it's heavily processed, and while the chemicals can react very strongly producing a lot of heat and potentially becoming combustible in factories, it's a controlled environment.

In order for something like this to happen, officials say it would take a perfect storm of things to go wrong.

“There have been industrial accidents in the past but every time an accident happens, we learn something about how to safely process Ammonium Nitrate, so the process is getting safer and safer. Ammonium Nitrate itself isn't usually combustible, but it's surprising because any industrial accident, with all the safe guards and protocols in place it's always something you wouldn't expect that contributes to a disaster like that, says Erin Alvarez of Sarasota County Extension Service.

If you have fertilizer at home, Alvarez says you don't have to worry about it violently exploding, but she says you should read the label and be sure to store it properly.

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