The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

Opinion

September 22, 2013

Risks outweigh costs

There is some confusion regarding the proposed fertilizer storage facility in downtown Greenville.

But local residents aren’t the only ones confused. It seems the authorization process for this kind of facility isn’t necessarily set in stone. Here is what we know:

— Martinek Grain applied for an air quality permit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Martinek Grain currently stores and sells fertilizer out of their facility at 3001 Bois d’Arc Street near downtown Greenville.

— A second company, Mears Fertilizer of El Dorado, Kansas wants to construct a portable polyphosphate blender on the property, which is expected to emit tiny amounts of anhydrous ammonia and fluorides, including hydrogen fluoride. The blender would be used a couple times a year. The fertilizer is not flammable, and an explosion like that in West, Texas, cannot occur, according to Martinek Grain.

— Anhydrous ammonia is dangerous in large doses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “ammonia is a toxic gas or liquid that, when concentrated, is corrosive to tissues upon contact. Exposure to ammonia in sufficient quantities can be fatal. Ammonia can be absorbed into the body by inhalation, ingestion, eye contact, and skin contact.”

— As an affected party, the city of Greenville is allowed to ask TCEQ to hold a public hearing. No date or location for the public hearing has been set.

— Because the area is already zoned for fertilizer, the Martinek Grain will not have to seek authorization from the city.

— A catastrophic spill of anhydrous ammonia would most likely require an evacuation in a mile radius, according to the CDC. The Hunt County Jail, the county courthouse, City Hall and the Greenville Police Department would all fall in this zone (as would the Herald-Banner, several churches, downtown businesses and homes).

While we certainly don’t want to hinder business growth downtown, and while we understand that the risk is minimal, there is still a risk. And, considering the location of the temporary mixing facility and the potential fallout of a catastrophic spill, we believe that the mixing should be done off site and outside of the city limits.

The costs involved may increase, but we believe that the risks far outweigh the cost.

If and when there is a public hearing, we strongly encourage the citizens of Greenville, particularly those that live close to the proposed mixing site, to come out and let their voices be heard.

Do you live or work near the proposed mixing site? Send your thoughts to the email address below.

The opinion expressed here is that of the Herald-Banner editorial board. The board can be reached at editor@heraldbanner.com.

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