A proposed explosives storage plant in Woodland has raised the ire of residents who are concerned about potential safety hazards.
WOODLAND, Cowlitz County — A proposed explosives storage plant in Woodland has raised the ire of residents who are concerned about potential safety hazards and doubtful that Cowlitz County officials have asked the necessary questions to determine whether such a facility belongs in their backyard.
Officials at Northwest Energetics, the Seal Rock, Ore.-based company pushing for the plant near Butte Hill Road, insist the facility and the trucks that will transport ammonium nitrate to and from the site would follow stringent state and federal safety guidelines.
Meanwhile, county officials rejected accusations that they have not been forthcoming with residents. They said they will schedule a meeting this month to discuss road safety and environmental checklists.
Northwest Energetics, a joint venture of Orica, the world’s leading supplier of explosives, purchased land last year on Butte Hill, four miles east of Woodland. It intends to consolidate two existing plants, one in Oregon and the other in Washington.
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Zoning on the land was changed after the purchase from non-zoned forestland to commercial, a fact Butte Hill’s 180 or so residents are not thrilled about.
“We’re sort of frightened by this whole thing,” said Eyck Bernardy, 70. “Here you have a giant corporation making itself at home in our neighborhood.”
Trucks carrying ammonium nitrate would navigate a steep, winding road to the site. Residents fear a crash would spark an environmental disaster in an area that depends on well water.
They also question whether Northwest Energetics would turn the site into a factory even though the company says it has no plans to do so.
“I can appreciate they may have some concerns,” said Northwest general manager Ed Coulter said, “but there are very few incidents associated with the storage of explosives manufactured somewhere else.”