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September 10, 2013

City wants answers on fertilizer plant proposal

GREENVILLE — The city of Greenville is asking the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a public meeting concerning plans to place a fertilizer mixing facility near downtown.

City Attorney Daniel W. Ray filed the request Monday afternoon and said he is essentially asking the agency two questions about what would happen in the event of a worst case scenario.

“If there is a catastrophic failure ... what is the plan to evacuate and what is the plan to warn people?” Ray said of the proposal to add a mixing facility to a fertilizer storage plant on the property at 3001 Bois D’arc Street.

Joey Rice, manager of Martinek Grain, has said the process being sought results in an extremely safe liquid fertilizer which would be stored at the site. A notice of the application for an air quality permit with the TCEQ was published in the Aug. 29 Herald-Banner. Mears Fertilizer of El Dorado, Kansas is wanting 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 materials will be mixed in the blender and would create the liquid fertilizer which would be stored in three silos on the property.

While the final product is reportedly safe, Ray said his concerns lie with the anhydrous ammonia and hydrogen fluoride — also known as hydroflouric acid — which will be used.

Ray referred to a May 1976 accident in Houston, when a truck carrying 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia overturned. The resulting cloud of gas from the accident killed seven people and severely injured many more.

“It is very, very scary if you think the same thing could happen here,” Ray said.

The TCEQ will be taking comments from the public through Sept. 29. Ray said he was filing the request for the public meeting on behalf of the Greenville City Council.

“The city council is very keen on learning why this isn’t dangerous,” Ray said. “The council has an obligation to at least ask these questions.”

The site where the mobile mixing would be located is surrounded by a residential neighborhood, two churches, a scattering of businesses at the east end of downtown, as well as the Hunt County Criminal Justice Center, which contains the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office, the local offices of the Texas Department of Public Safety, two justice of the peace courts and more than 300 inmates incarcerated inside the Hunt County Jail.

“Most of the year the wind comes from a southwesterly direction,” Ray said. “That’s going directly onto the jail. In a worst case scenario, there could be 600 people over there. That’s just in that one single building directly across the street.”

Should the TCEQ approve the request for a public meeting, Ray said officials representing the state agency and the applicant would be on hand.

“They both should be there to answer questions,” Ray said.

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