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Residents concerned over ammonium nitrate storage near Swansea Docks

PEOPLE living near Swansea docks have been asking for reassurance about any ammonium nitrate stored there following the catastrophic explosion in Beirut.

St Thomas councillor Clive Lloyd said half a dozen people had rung him on Wednesday on the issue.

He said he has taken it up through the Swansea Bay Port Health Authority, of which he is a member.

Tuesday’s lethal Beirut blast is said to have been caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which is used in fertilisers but can also be used in explosives, being stored unsafely in a warehouse.

Cllr Lloyd said he has been advised that the percentage of ammonium nitrate in agricultural fertiliser at the docks was below a certain threshold level.

“The nitrate part is well below the level being talked about in Beirut,” he said.

Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns Swansea docks, said “very small quantities of ammonium nitrate” were stored there.

An APB spokeswoman said the handling and the storage of the substance were strictly controlled, but that the amount at the docks did not fall under a major accident hazards regulation, known as Comah.

However, she said all UK ports storing ammonium nitrate had to meet strict UK and EU regulations and that the company worked with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), among others, as well as running courses for staff.

She added: “Whilst the Port of Swansea is not a Comah site, due to the very small quantities of ammonium nitrate stored not requiring this, the site still operates to the same Comah and other safety regulations and standards as other sites across ABP.”

The HSE said storage of 25 tonnes of more of ammonium nitrate – a white, crystal-like solid – required the local authority and fire service to be notified.

There are further rules for the storage of 150-plus tonnes, and more still for anything above 1,250 tonnes.

An HSE spokeswoman said Britain had among the most stringent controls in the world.

“As with all industrial disasters around the world, we will take on board any significant findings from the (Beirut) investigation as and when they emerge,” she said.

More than 130 people died following the explosion at the Middle Eastern port, others are missing and thousands suffered injuries.

Cllr Chris Holley, who chairs the Swansea Bay Port Health Authority, said the storage of ammonium nitrate was not one of its remits, but that it had contacted the HSE and APB to seek reassurance.

Cllr Holley said he was satisfied with the responses.

“I think the people of Swansea can be quite confident that the regulations are adhered to – they are very, very strict,” he said.

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