Explosive Chemicals Vanish From Train

The 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in fertilizer, that went missing in April from a rail shipment heading to California has still not been found, the New York Times reported.

The explosive manufacturing company Dyno Nobel notified the federal government of the loss of the chemical and said it was investigating how the ammonium nitrate went missing during the nearly 2-week journey.

According to Dyno Nobel, the rail car containing the ammonium nitrate was sealed when it left the plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and when the train arrived in Saltdale, California, the seals were still intact.

Based on its initial assessment, Dyno Nobel said that a leak must have developed in the bottom grate of the car during transit.

The May 10 report made to the National Response Center, the federal government’s call center for reporting railroad incidents, said that the rail car left Cheyenne on April 12 and arrived in Saltdale empty.

The empty rail car was returned to Wyoming for further investigation, according to Dyno Nobel which said it had “limited control” over the train’s activity while the ammonium nitrate was in transit with Union Pacific.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South said in a statement that the rail carrier’s investigation was in the “early stages.” South said that since ammonium nitrate is designed for quick soil absorption, any material released would not pose a risk to the environment or public health.

Malicious or criminal activity is not suspected in the disappearance of the cargo, Union Pacific said.

Both the California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Railroad Administration are investigating the matter, KQED in San Francisco reported.

Mainly used as a fertilizer, ammonium nitrate is also found in first aid products like cold packs. While the chemical is relatively harmless, it can be used as an explosive in mining and construction when it is added to a fuel source and subjected to pressure and heat.