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EPA and Farmers Cooperative in Gretna, Neb., Reach Agreement on Emergency Notification Violations

Release Date: 12/10/2007
Contact Information: Kim Olson, (913) 551-7458, olson.kim@epa.gov


Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Kansas City, Kan., Dec. 10, 2007) - The Farmers Union Cooperative Association in Gretna, Neb., will purchase emergency response equipment valued at more than $27,000 for the Gretna Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, and will pay a $5,650 penalty as settlement for violations occurring after an anhydrous ammonia spill in April 2006.

EPA Region 7 and the cooperative, an anhydrous ammonia dealer in Gretna, have agreed to a settlement of violations of EPA's emergency notification laws. The cooperative failed to immediately notify emergency responders after a release of 3,880 pounds of anhydrous ammonia to the air.

The release occurred at the intersection of Highways 91 and 31outside Elkhorn, Neb., as a result of a car accident involving a nurse tank being towed behind a cooperative-owned pickup truck. The release required shutting down both highways and evacuation of nearby homes.

The first emergency responders on the scene had been notified of the accident, but were unaware of the hazardous chemical release, thus putting them at risk for exposure. The Elkhorn and Waterloo fire departments, Douglas County Sheriff, Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Transportation, and Omaha Fire Department HazMat Team responded to the accident.

The cooperative willingly negotiated with EPA to settle the case in a way that will have long term benefits for the community. The emergency response equipment the cooperative will purchase for the Gretna fire department will help protect both the emergency responders and the public from harm in the event of a hazardous substance release.

Anhydrous ammonia is used widely and in large quantities for a variety of purposes. More than 80 percent of the ammonia produced in the United States is used for agricultural purposes. It is generally safe, provided that handling, operating, and maintenance procedures are followed. However, it is toxic and can be a health hazard. It is very corrosive, and exposure to it might result in chemical-type burns to skin, eyes, and lungs. Effects of inhalation of anhydrous ammonia range from headaches, nausea and lung irritation to severe respiratory injuries.
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View the Dec. 6 consent agreement and final order at:
http://www.epa.gov/region07/businesses/consent_agree_final_order/