Local fertilizer plant talks safety measures after explosion in West, Texas

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, April 18, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The largest fertilizer plant in Georgia is located in Augusta. PCS Nitrogen is just off Laney Walker Boulevard near Bobby Jones Expressway.

"The way the eagle fly it's really, really close compared to the magnitude of the stuff they have down there," said Leon McCray, who lives in east Augusta.

His house is about a quarter mile from the fertilizer plant. When he turned on the news Thursday, he found out what had happened in West, Texas.

"First thing that come to mind, we got a plant here and what would, what's the possibility?" he said.

The fertilizer plant in Augusta is considered a world-scale operation and is one of the largest plants on the East Coast.

"It's something we work very hard to keep from happening in our facility," said Keith Wilson, ammonia technology manager at PCS Nitrogen.

Plant officials in Augusta say they take every precaution to make sure their employees and the community are safe including looking at what went wrong in Texas.

"We have a chance to review that and see if there are lessons learned," Wilson said. "Look at our protection systems and mitigation systems and see if there's anything we need to learn from or improve in our facilities."

They already have a lot of safety measures in place, including yearly drills going through all sorts of scenarios with outside agencies like Richmond County EMA. They also have safety systems built into each room at the plant as well as first responders on site.

"We have employees on each of our shifts that are trained as firemen and also as hazardous material emergency responders," Wilson said.

McCray says it's great to hear they have so many safety measures, but it doesn't stop him from worrying.

"It makes you feel comfortable, but all it takes is one time," McCray said. "One individual or one incident. One time is all it takes and that can be disastrous."

As we saw all too clearly Wednesday night.

The PCS Nitrogen plant has been in Augusta since early 1960s and employs more than 300 people.

They recently hit a safety milestone at the plant. Five million work hours without lost-time accidents, which equals about three and a half years of safe work.

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