The North Carolina Department of Labor is fining the Winston Weaver Company for improperly storing ammonium nitrate. It remains unclear why these issues were not identified before the plant caught fire earlier this year.

The department is fining the company $5,600 for two violations: failing to keep the ammonium nitrate storage containers dry and storing the chemical in wooden containers that were not treated or constructed adequately.

Stan Meiburg, a former acting deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency who now works for Wake Forest University, says properly treating those containers is critical to preventing an accident. 

“The problem with ammonium nitrate is it's an oxidizer. And you create fires when you supply it with a fuel," says Meiburg. "Wood is a perfect example of what can be a fuel for an oxidizer like ammonium nitrate.”

The North Carolina Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Division is responsible for ensuring that facilities are properly storing their hazardous chemicals. But prior to the fire, the Winston Weaver Company hadn't been inspected since 2013.

In an interview earlier this year Scott Mabry, with the department, said that lag time is not unusual. 

“It could be 10 or 15 years between an inspection at a mid-level risk employer, just based on our staffing,” says Mabry.

Labor department officials declined to comment Tuesday on the violations, citing the ongoing investigation. 

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