Many licenses for distribution of fertilizer in Mid-Columbia

Tri-City HeraldMay 25, 2013 

— A concrete pad and walls surround the bases of fertilizer tanks at Tessenderlo Kerley.

While that waterproof pad is not designed for catastrophic events, it is meant to act as a second line of defense if groundwater leaks from a valve or if there’s a small hole in a tank, or if a truck pulls away and breaks a hose, said Brent Perry, Washington State Department of Agriculture fertilizer compliance manager.

Most forms of the secondary containment required by the state are concrete pads. Whether a company is a manufacturer, retailer or a bulk fertilizer distributor, the company has to meet state storage requirements.

About 50 of the 300 bulk fertilizer distribution licenses in the state are for locations in Benton and Franklin counties, including the manufacturing plants operated by Tessenderlo Kerley and Agrium, as well as bulk fertilizer retailers and farms.

A license is required for those with more than 500 gallons of liquid fertilizer or more than 50,000 pounds of dry, Perry said.

That much liquid fertilizer would fill one-tenth of a semi-tanker truck, and that much dry fertilizer would fill a truck used to haul wheat or grain.

Fertilizer products must be registered and approved by the Department of Agriculture in order to be used in the state. There are more than 7,000 registered products allowed in Washington, Perry said.

At Tessenderlo Kerley, the tanks are annually inspected by a third-party contractor, said Robbie Inouye, the Finley plant manager.

The concrete walls and pad are inspected by employees monthly to make sure there is nothing that needs repair.

As part of the licensing process, the Department of Agriculture inspects how the material is stored and checks the spill plan, also called a fire response plan. And that is shared with the local fire officials, said Hector Castro, the Department of Agriculture’s communications manager.

Once a location is open for business, the agency sends staff to check on how fertilizer is stored and to take random samples of fertilizers to ensure the product is what it says it is, Perry said.

It’s part quality control, part consumer protection, he said.

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