INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The same type of liquid fertilizer hit by a train in White County Wednesday played a key role in a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas earlier this year. It’s one of the most popular fertilizers used by farmers in Indiana.
In the weeks following the explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, I-Team 8 investigated the hidden dangers behind fertilizer chemicals here in Indiana. While investigators narrowed down the cause of the explosion to a massive amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the West facility, the site was also storing more than 54,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia.
1,000 gallons of that same chemical being towed behind a tractor in a “nurse tank” in White County were hit by an Amtrak train Wednesday.
The tank did not rupture.
Anhydrous ammonia storage tanks must be at least 3/16 of an inch thick, according to federal guidelines from the Department of Transportation and Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Indiana law allows anhydrous ammonia to be stored as close as 400 feet to a home.
Storage tanks must be further away from schools, hospitals and nursing homes, but can be legally transported in smaller nurse tanks down nearly every road in the state.
The DOT classifies the liquid they carry as non-flammable. But, experts say the vapors given off by the anhydrous ammonia in its gaseous form can ignite at temperatures above 1,204 degrees F. The ammonia vapor can also be explosive in high concentrations, and that danger can be increased in the presence of oil, gasoline or other flammable materials.
Ammonia can also form an unstable explosive compound if it’s combined with mercury, according to OSHA documents.
The liquid form of anhydrous ammonia can also cause serious chemical burns by itself, and it can cause immediate irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and skin. In n high concentrations, inhaling the vapors can be fatal.
A 22-year-old Elkhart man has pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of the owner of a northern Indiana convenience store and an employee.
On Tuesday, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed suit against an Indiana business that sold a gun used to shoot an IMPD officer.
The mother of two young girls saved by 16-year-old Aubrey Peters more than three years ago, says Peters is truly a hero.