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Texas Plant Explosion Raises Questions About SoCal Fertilizer Producers

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OXNARD (CBSLA.com) — A massive explosion at a Texas plant has raised questions about the safety of Southern California fertilizer companies.

The blast at West Fertilizer Co. Wednesday killed at least 15 people and injured 160 others.

Media reports indicated the company was storing 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, which is a dangerous gas that is used as a fertilizer.

Tom Beardsley, the owner and operator of Beardsley & Son, said his independent family-run fertilizer company in Oxnard stopped using anhydrous ammonia 30 years ago because of the potential threat of the gas exploding.

“Anhydrous ammonia, which is a gas, has to be stored in a vessel, and I think that’s what blew up over there,” he said.

Melinda Beardsley-Wiseman, Beardsley’s daughter, said the company also worried about the potential danger of their employees handling the gas.

“We’re always proactive about how we handle the business and keeping the community safe,” she said.

Beardsley-Wiseman said they work closely with the local fire department in case of an emergency.

“They need to understand what we inventory. Whether it’s hazardous or not,” she said.

Beardsley, who said the company only carries dry, liquid and organic fertilizer, said they’re not the only ones who avoid hazardous materials.

“There are no agricultural dealers in Ventura County that use (anhydrous ammonia.) It’s just not there,” he said.

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