ONSLOW COUNTY, NC (WITN) – Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical commonly found in plant fertilizers, are trapped inside the fertilizer plant Weaver where a fire burns in Winston-Salem.
The chemical is highly combustible. It was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and caused the 2020 explosion in Beirut.
Meherrin Agricultural & Chemical Co. chemistry experts say the Department of Homeland Security requires strict licensing for the distribution and purchase of ammonium nitrate.
S&H Feed & Garden supply store manager Brian Walker explained that they no longer buy or sell fertilizer containing the chemical.
“It was the ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Things have now moved on to ammonium sulphate and then to calcium nitrate. These are safe, not nearly as volatile,” Walker said.
Walker explained that the chemical balances of alternative fertilizers are less combustible, but still contain adequate amounts of nitrogen needed for plant growth.
Evacuation efforts began near the fertilizer plant over fears of a possible explosion. The Winston-Salem Fire Department said the plant stores about 300 to 600 tons of ammonium nitrate.
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