Letters From the West

Closed Caldwell bread company was fined for not reporting anhydrous ammonia

A Caldwell bread company was fined $84,000 in 2012 for improperly reporting the volatile substance. Anhydrous ammonia played a role in the fire and explosions at a Texas fertilizer plant on Wednesday.

Rhodes Bake-N-Serv, at 14702 Karcher Road, has already shifted all production to its other plant in Columbus, Wis. Company officials said in January that it planned to close to consolidate its operations.

“Rhodes will shift all production to its other plant in Columbus, Wis.,” said Kenny Farnsworth, president of the family-owned company based in Salt Lake City.

“The company decided to move production to Wisconsin because it is more centrally located for the company, whose products are shipped across the United States,” Farnsworth said. “Closing the Caldwell plant will also increase efficiency by leaving the company with one plant to run instead of two.”

Six people are left closing the facility that stored large amounts of anhydrous ammonia while in operation.

In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the company for improperly reporting about the hazardous material. Rhodes failed to file inventory forms with state and local emergency response official from 2006 through 2009 as required by law, documents showed.

The law required it to report the material to the Caldwell Fire Department, Canyon County Local Emergency Planning Committee and the Idaho Bureau of Hazardous Materials.

“Local emergency planners and responders rely on this information to do their jobs,” said Wally Moon, preparedness and prevention unit manager from the EPA Emergency Management Program in Seattle. “It’s critical information for them to protect the community and themselves when a dangerous chemical release occurs.”

Anhydrous ammonia is a pungent, toxic gas that attacks skin, eyes, throat and lungs, and can cause serious injury or death. It’s a gas that is one part nitrogen and three parts hydrogen. It’s used in fertilizers, drugs and commercial cleaning products.

Anhydrous ammonia is a common chemical found in industrial facilities and storage facilities across the Treasure Valley.



Nine companies in Ada County and 11 in Canyon County report quantities ranging from 100 pounds to more than 100,000 pounds of the chemical that was involved in the Texas fertilizer plant explosion.



It is used as a refrigerant, for cleaning, pollution control and to purify water and waste. Companies have report the have it like other hazardous material to its local fire department, local emergency planning committee and the Idaho Bureau of Hazardous Materials annually, said Rob Feeley, a spokesmn for the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security.



The JR Simplot Food Group plant near Caldwell reported the largest volume of more than 100,000 but less than 1 million pounds.  CTI-SSI Food Services LLC, which processes meat in Wilder reported 90,000 pounds.




“We have good engagement and participation in our local emergency planning committees and that is the forum for planning and responding to incidents like we saw in Texas,” Feeley said.



Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West