Homes surround U.S. Nitrogen in Greene County much like those that were near a fertilizer plant in West, Texas.
As you might imagine, that has some folks wondering if that could happen here. They’re concerned because the two plants use similar materials. “We have no details of what they were doing, how they were handling what they were handling,” said Justin Freeark, U.S. Nitrogen’s Plant Manager.
Freeark says OSHA and the EPA hold them to high standards. "A tremendous amount of attention is paid to how the facility is designed, where it's built, how it's built, and the quality of the material going into the facility. Inspections of the equipment to ensure that everything we can do is done to prevent the release of highly hazardous chemical," said Freeark.
Freeark tells us the products are not as dangerous as those at the Texas plant, because it is a different kind of ammonium nitrate. "The products we make are not by nature explosive or hazardous, the final product is a liquid ammonium nitrate solution, which is ammonium nitrate dissolved in water; making it very stable and safe to handle," said Freeark.
Even with non-hazardous materials, Freeark tells us safety is still the number one concern, saying they even have a great working relationship with the Greeneville Fire Department. "We know the hazards that are here. We know their training levels, they know our training levels. We're training and integrating together," said Mark Foulks, Greeneville Fire Chief.
We spoke to one resident who lives not even a mile from the plant and he says he feels confident in the company and isn't worried. "I think they'll take care of it themselves and they won’t have any problems. I think they probably know what they're doing,” said John Allison.
"If I could find a house, I would live next door to the plant," said Freeark.
Freeark told us they plan to monitor the investigation in Texas and see what lessons there are to be learned.