Weekend anhydrous ammonia leak displaces six, area departments work together to contain dangerous gas

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FARMINGTON, Ill.– A weekend anhydrous ammonia gas leak displaced six residents in Farmington. Fire crews from the area responded to the escaping chemical and were able to safety resolve the situation.

Large plumes of smoke were seen Saturday near Walters Ag Service on Route 116 in Farmington. But it wasn’t a fire, it was an anhydrous ammonia gas leak.

“They had three 12,000 gallon tanks of anhydrous ammonia,” said Fire Prevention Division Chief for the Peoria Fire Department, Stan Taylor. “One of them was leaking and they shut the valve off and that closed the leak pretty much all the way. Then they went in and capped it, and sealed it from leaking after that.”

Fulton County Emergency Management, Canton Fire Department and the Peoria Hazardous Materials team all responded to the call.

“Our Hazmat core team is very specialized in training in that sort of thing,” said Chief Taylor. “Other departments] know that they can call us when they need somebody.”

Patrick Kirchhoffer, with the Peoria County Farm Bureau says, the chemical is used to restore nitrogen in farmers’ fields.

“It’s a liquid form whenever it’s in the tanks,” said Kirchoffer. “Whenever it’s released into the soil then it’s a gas and it stabilized the soil over the winter and then it becomes available to the corn plants the following spring.”

These incidents are rare, but first responders say the gas is harmful if it escapes its pressurized containment.

“Because it is without water, it seeks moisture,” said Chief Taylor. “So when it escapes into the air it’s very bad for your eyes. If you ingest it into your lugs it”ll cause chemical burns.”

The leak was contained and no injuries were reported from the incident.

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