REYNOLDS — First responders were called to the scene of a chemical spill Friday afternoon at the Co-Alliance plant in Reynolds.
Though one house was evacuated during the incident as a precaution, there were no injuries, and the situation was resolved in roughly two-and-a-half hours.
The incident began when a 1,500-gallon nurse tank’s liquid line valve broke.
At the time, Co-Alliance personnel were originally attempting to change a fitting. But during that process, the valve broke at the base and the tank began leaking anhydrous ammonia.
“It wasn’t a very big leak,” said Lt. Mike Hill, of the Monticello Fire Department. “The Co-Alliance personnel took appropriate and quick measures.”
The personnel called for assistance at around 1 p.m. and received helped from fire departments in Reynolds and Monticello. Tankers were also supplied from fire departments in Monon and Chalmers.
“We wanted kind of a big water supply on-hand,” Hill said, “Both those departments have big 3,000-gallon tankers, just in case we had a major leak or if something else broke and we had a large cloud start. We had plenty of water there to suppress it.”
Hill said hazmat teams of the fire departments remained on stand-by while Co-Alliance’s personnel tried to resolve the problem without letting it get any worse. At that time, one house that was downwind of the area was evacuated as a precaution.
The vapor side of the nurse tank was run through a tank of water to pull the ammonia out, leaving only liquid nitric acid used for fertilizer. Once there was little pressure left in the nurse tank, the tank was moved to a remote area, where the low-pressure leak could continue without presenting a danger to anyone.
The White County Sheriff’s Department assisted at the scene by blocking a road for the Co-Allinace personnel, so they could get the tank out of town.
“They’re not going to be able to change that valve out until that tank leaks off,” Hill said. “They’ve moved it out to a safe place where it can leak, where it’s not going to hurt anything. It’ll probably take a day or two for that to leak down.”
Because anhydrous is technically a cryogenic material, it still gives off gas even in the current cold temperatures. As that gas expands, the substance becomes colder and the liquid in the tank freezes.
“Once it froze, it made it much more stable so that we could move it,” Hill said.