California authorities are currently investigating the vanishing of 61,000 pounds worth of ammonium nitrate. Most commonly used as a fertilizer, ammonium nitrate can be used to make bombs; it was used as a main ingredient in the homemade bomb used during the 1995 destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Clearly, the disappearance of such a high amount of the ammonium nitrate has many dark implications, and investigators are concerned of the disastrous consequences of not locating the stolen chemicals.
Where Was the Ammonium Nitrate Headed?
30-Ton Shipment of Explosive Chemicals Go Missing https://t.co/oOJesz5AIA— One America News (@OANN) May 23, 2023
The chemical had been shipped via Union Pacific train from Cheyenne, Wyoming in April of 2023. But when it was meant to arrive in the Mojave Desert two weeks later, its holding car was completely empty. For Dyno Nobel—the company responsible for shipping the chemical—the disappearance is not only an embarrassment, but a liability.
The company assured KQED News, “The railcar was sealed when it left the Cheyenne facility, and the seals were still intact when it arrived in Saltdale. The initial assessment is that a leak through the bottom gate on the railcar may have developed in transit.”
Could the Disappearance of the Ammonium Nitrate Have Been Accidental?
60,000 lbs of ammonium nitrate went missing during a two-week train journey in April and still hasn’t been found. https://t.co/hqGw6oTE14— Matt Ford (@fordm) May 21, 2023
Former Wyoming lawmaker and retired train conductor Stan Blake told Cowboy State Daily News, “It wouldn’t be hard to drain one of the hopper cars of its load of the pellets.
The cars have two or three sections, and there’s a gate at the bottom of them.
You can use up a big bar and open that gate, and it’ll pour out.”
Still, both Dyno Nobel and Union Pacific are adamant in their insistence that the chemicals spilled from the train due to an accidental “leak.” If this is to be believed, then the lost ammonium nitrate—which, as stated, is used as fertilizer—would pose no threat to the environment.
While one could argue that the two companies are merely trying to save face, their claims are backed up by David King, a Campbell County emergency management coordinator. He told the Cowboy State Daily News that he doesn’t believe the chemicals were stolen, stating, “If I was going to make an IED [improvised explosive device], ammonia nitrate wouldn’t be my choice of explosive.”
The Spilling of Dangerous Chemicals Is an All-Too-Common Occurrence
Stolen or not, this incident is just the latest in a string of train-related mishaps that have resulted in the disappearance of potentially dangerous chemicals. For example, in February, a chemical spill in Ohio led to a mass evacuation of the town of East Palestine.