EPA has awarded $75,000 in grant money to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Missouri State Emergency Management Agency to help reduce accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia at facilities that handle, process or store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous fertilizer.
MDA will receive $30,000 to develop a program to conduct on-site audits and follow-up safety assessments at 189 agricultural retail anhydrous ammonia facilities in Missouri. SEMA will receive $45,000 to conduct workshops and on-site audits of 205 non-agricultural facilities. The SEMA grant focuses on enhancing communication among local first responders, planners and all regulated facilities.
Anhydrous ammonia is a source of nitrogen fertilizer widely used for corn, milo and wheat. It is also used as an industrial refrigerant. Anhydrous ammonia is generally safe provided handling, operating and maintenance procedures are followed. However, it is toxic and can be a health hazard. Inhaling anhydrous ammonia can cause lung irritation and severe respiratory injuries.
EPA Region 7, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Nine Tribal Nations receives more accidental release reports for ammonia than for any other chemical. In addition to releases caused by transportation accidents, human error and equipment failure, a number have been caused by anhydrous ammonia thefts. It is a key ingredient in the illegal production of methamphetamine. When stolen, the toxic gas can be unintentionally released, causing injuries to emergency responders, law enforcement personnel, the public and the criminals themselves.
Retailers were first required to be in compliance with the Risk Management Program in 1999. EPA then started facility inspections and enforcement of the program, which includes five components: hazard assessment system, management, accident prevention, emergency response and submittal of a risk management plan.
For additional information, contact George Hess, EPA environmental protection specialist, 913-551-7540.