Homes Evacuated After Anhydrous Ammonia Leak in Iowa Town

Firefighters and sheriff's deputies responded to an anhydrous ammonia leak at the cooperative in Collins, Iowa, just before 11 a.m. The leak was contained by 1:38 p.m., and the evacuation order was lifted.

by Tribune staff, Ames Tribune, Iowa / August 14, 2019
TNS

(TNS) — A handful of homes in Collins were evacuated Tuesday morning after an anhydrous ammonia leak was discovered at Landus Cooperative, in the town of about 480 people.

Firefighters from three area communities and deputies from the Story County Sheriff's Office responded to a call of an anhydrous ammonia leak at the cooperative just before 11 a.m. The leak was contained by 1:38 p.m., and the evacuation order was lifted.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The area of town affected was the southeast part of the community, which is located in the far southeast corner of Story County. As the wind was blowing to the southeast, the anhydrous vapors were blown out of town, said Capt. Nick Lennie with the sheriff's office.

Story County Emergency Management Coordinator Keith Morgan said the leak occurred as employees were performing maintenance on the anhydrous tank, creating a vapor plume in the area.

He said weather conditions helped keep the problem from worsening.

"We were fortunate the winds were out of the west and northwest, and moved the vapor cloud out and away from where it would be a risk to most of the homes in that area," Morgan said.

He said the Des Moines Fire Department's hazardous materials team responded and went in to close down the leak.

Firefighters from Collins, Colo and Maxwell responded to the cooperative. Officials with the Story County Emergency Management Office also responded.

Exposure to anhydrous ammonia can cause burning of the eyes, nose and throat. If exposed to higher levels, a person's throat can become swollen and they can experience chemical burns to their lungs.

Anhydrous ammonia is stored as a liquid but turns into a vapor when exposed to the air, making it difficult to detect and contain.

"It's difficult to contain when it turns into that vapor," Lennie said. "It can become dangerous very fast."

Alicia Heun, the director of communications for Landus Cooperative, said the company was grateful for the fast response by first responders, and that nobody was injured.

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