BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEVER – Several alarms that went off at the Iowa Fertilizer plant during the previous week, including Saturday, were part of the commission process of the facility, according one company official.
Jesse Harris, a company spokesman, said he has checked with IFC officials and there were no arbitrary incidents that would have caused the alarms to go off outside of the testing and commission steps required to get the facility up and running.
“I did check with the plant and there were no incidents reported, but there were alarm tests,” Harris said.
“As we’ve said before, we’re moving in steps during the pre-commissioning and that involves more testing of systems so we can become full production ready. We’ve very, very excited about where we’re at in that process,” Harris said. “This is one of the largest private projects in the state’s history and were very excited to get up and running.”
Harris also addressed the closure of the crossing on Hwy. 61, that is the main outlet to the plant, but also a main roadway for property owners behind the plant. The move would ultimately be decided by the Iowa Department of Transportation and would force southbound traffic to travel to the first Fort Madison interchange and use the newly constructed RISE highway to access their property. Residents would also have the option of turning at the BP station on Hwy 61 north of the fertilizer plant and using the roads behind there to access their property.
IFC is also asking the state to allow them to construct an acceleration lane on the northbound side of 61 for truck traffic heading north out of the plant. According to the Lee County Board of Supervisors, 70 percent of truck traffic leaving the facility would be headed north. Harris said IFC would shoulder the entire cost of the closure and the acceleration lane.
“The first thing is safety for the community and our operations. It is the most critical aspect of our operations,” he said.
“As we move closer to full production anyone would want to look at traffic patterns and what are the safest options for the community. The trucks are our customers, not employees, so it’s hard to dictate what they do. We’re considering working with the DOT to see if that makes more sense. We’ve looked at what is the safest for people moving through the community and that turn presented safety issues that we take very seriously. From our perspective, looking first and foremost from a safety perspective, it makes the most sense for it to be closed.”
Harris also said IFC has heard comments that the closure would hinder emergency responses and he said that wouldn’t be the case.
“Emergency crews would access that turn under the plans right now.We’re open to hearing from anyone with other options and we understand there are other factors, but we have to consider the overall safety of everyone involved,” he said.
He said the IFC is very appreciative of the Lee County Board of Supervisors partnership as the facility has come to fruition and is fully understanding of their position.