Fertilizer expert examines facility explosion in West, Texas - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Fertilizer expert examines facility explosion in West, Texas

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

There are those who would say 77-year-old Jerry Stoller has forgotten more about fertilizer than many experts will ever know.

"Without nitrogen, the world would be in starvation right now," says Stoller.

For four decades, his Houston-based company Stoller USA has operated in 50 countries around the globe.

When the West Fertilizer plant blew last Wednesday, Stoller had an insider's knowledge of what likely happened.

"I did business with this company," said Stoller, adding, "Some debris of that fire fell on the ammonium nitrate pile and caused the explosion."

Ammonium nitrate is a compound first manufactured to make bombs. In Stoller's eyes, it's far more valuable as a fertilizer to vastly enhance the production of food.

"This is generally a safe product to handle. It is necessary for human existence," said Stoller.

It's also, according to Stoller, a product that could and perhaps should have been made far less dangerous while in storage.

"In order to make this product less explosive its mixed with a combination of calcium carbonate and limestone and if its mixed with a certain quantity you can no longer ignite it with flames," said Stoller who does not know if the ammonium nitrate in West was treated while in storage.

While deeply saddened by the losses sustained by West's first responders, Stoller believes the community's volunteer fire fighters were likely under informed and underequipped.

"They should have been versed in the explosiveness of this material and it would have been better for them to let the fire burn and get everybody out of the area rather than take that chance. A volunteer fire department cannot be expected to cope with a situation like this," said Stoller.

Calling the fertilizer plant catastrophe in West an "extremely rare" case, Stoller compared the risk to nearby homes and schools as similar to the threat faced by neighborhoods built close to airports

"You can put all the restrictions you want on it, but you are going to restrict the food available to mankind as the world population increases," said Stoller.

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