The release of ammonia sulfate raises health concerns in Henry

Local News

HENRY, Ill. (WMBD) — One mom in Henry said for the last year and a half her family has dealt with chemicals raining down on her home. After months of repeat problems, she wants to know if what she’s breathing in is going to hurt her family.

Kally Davis describes white dust coating cars, grills, and yards. She said sometimes homeowners see it first, but sometimes it’s the smell warning moms like Daviss that it’s happened again.

“At night time there will be a cloud that comes out, but depending on which way the wind is blowing it’s dumping a white powder all over our yards, our cars our house.”

Kally Davis

Davis said the company told her the powder is ammonia sulfate. She said the problem has been consistent for a year and a half in the making. First, it was just the smell, then in November Davis said that’s when Unity EnviroTech started releasing the clouds of chemicals.

She said sometimes it’s so heavy that it looks like a fog has rolled into the northeast part of town.

Davis said the fertilizer company is basically in her backyard. The plant is located about a quarter of a mile away from her home. And when the ammonia sulfate is released, she said it makes it difficult for her children to play.

“So basically when you go outside like we do and your eyes are burning and your nose burning that is when you are getting poisoned from it. If we are out breathing that in, I don’t want that in my lungs. I definitely don’t want it in my children’s lungs.”

Unity Envirotech President and COO Kobus van der Zel oversee the plant confirming to WMBD that the plant is releasing ammonia sulfate because of recent equipment repairs. But he said the dust is harmless.

In a statement writing… “Unity has visited with their industrial neighbors to explain that the dust is not hazardous in any way, although it could be corrosive. AMS is used in many applications other than fertilizers and is even used in bakeries as a yeast softener.”

Davis said she’s called the Environmental Protection Agency. A spokesperson there said Davis is not the only one making complaints, saying the agency has received “a series” of complaints of odor and dust from homeowners in Henry since August 2019 to present.

The EPA inspected the plant in November and those findings are still under review.

UPDATE: Following the posting of this story, the President of COO of Unity EnviroTech, Kobus van der Zel, contacted WMBD with more to say about this issue. van der Zel believes his company was very proactive after the dust was released. Here is his full statement:

“The story above may have given viewers a false impression – the plant had a small number of short accidental releases of dust. The safety of our employees and the Henry community is our highest priority, and we were diligent about alerting EPA officials at the time. The plant remains in full compliance with environmental safety regulations. As soon as we learned of the incidents, we met in person with nearby businesses to let them know the situation posed no danger to them and their families and to apologize for any inconvenience the situation may have caused.”

Kobus van der Zel, Unity EnviroTech of Illinois President and COO

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