Head of large fertilizer plant in Bartow says explosion like in TX is unlikely

Mosaic says it uses different chemicals

BARTOW, Fla. - One of Polk County's largest fertilizer plants says it's highly unlikely an explosion like the one in West, Texas, would happen at its facility.

General Manager of the Bartow Fertilizer Complex for Mosaic, George Katzaras, said they do not use the highly explosive chemical -- called ammonium nitrate -- that many believe caused the explosion in Texas.

"What's different between the products that Mosaic produces is that none of our products are flammable or explosive," Katzaras said.

Mosaic is known for its phosphate mining in Central Florida.

The rock is brought in by rail to the Bartow plant to produce fertilizer that they ship all around the globe. It produces about 2.2 million tons of fertilizer every year.

Katzaras cautions there still is a level of risk in everything they do, and Polk Fire Rescue is well aware.

"I feel confident that although the possibility exists of having an explosion like this, the probability is very low," said Deputy Chief Mike Linkins, who is also in charge of safety and training.

Linkins said they do annual drills with industries like Mosaic to prepare for accidents, fires, or the release of chemicals.

They even have a special response team trained and ready for the call.

"Then we do what we call a hazards analysis, that worst case scenario, if this chemical were to be released, where would we need to evacuate, what schools or other critical facilities would be in danger, that sort of thing," he said.

Wednesday's massive explosion, that even registered as an earth quake, caused destruction as far as five miles.

Glenn Broom lives about four miles from the fertilizer plant in Bartow.

"I think we're so used to it in this area, that I don't think very many people will bring that up," he said.

Broom has faith in the quarterly safety drills and extra precautions taken just down the road at the plant that has been part of the landscape for decades.

"There's a risk in anything and everything we do," said Katzaras. "We take the necessary precautions to make sure we minimize those risks and Mosaic has a proven track record."

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