State officials say Minnesota's anhydrous ammonia plants are regularly inspected for their handling of the popular farm fertilizer, one of the suspected causes of Wednesday's deadly explosion in West, Texas.
In the wake of the explosion at the Texas fertilizer plant, Minnesota agriculture department officials say they conduct regular inspections of similar facilities in this state.
The state has inspected about 70 anhydrous ammonia fertilizer facilities so far this fiscal year, said Joe Spitzmueller with the department's Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division. About 100 anydrous storage facilities are inspected each year. Inspectors levied financial penalties for violations in about a third of the visits, he said.
In the past few years penalties have ranged from a few hundred dollars to nearly $50,000.
"It's important that the facilities are kept secure. That valves are closed and locked when not in use. So many times the inspections involve those kinds of areas of non-compliance," Spitmueller said.
Minnesota law requires that ammonia storage tanks under 100,000 gallons capacity be located at least 400 feet from a residence or public institution. Tanks larger than that must be at least 1,000 feet away. But because of grandfathering rules, some tanks are closer than current regulations allow.
About 20 years ago, Minnesota required anhydrous ammonia tanks to be located at least 400 feet away from homes or public facilities.