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EMA: Overturned anhydrous tank righted in Galveston

Pharos-Tribune - 6/22/2022

Jun. 21—Cass County Emergency Management worked with the Galveston Fire Department and town marshals from Galveston and Walton to right an anhydrous ammonia tank that rolled over Tuesday morning.

The anhydrous tank was located on State Road 18 south of State Road 35. There were no leaks, but residents were advised to avoid the area while crews worked to right the tank.

"If it was leaking, we'd be talking about evacuations and shelter in place orders as well as additional personal protective equipment for responders," EMA Director Rocky Buffum said.

Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used by farmers as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, but it can pose dangers when people are exposed to the gas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anhydrous ammonia can irritate the nose and eyes and cause swelling of the throat that leads to respiratory distress or respiratory failure when inhaled.

The gas has a distinct odor and is easily dissolved in water.

"With anhydrous, firefighters can deploy what's called a fog pattern with their water nozzles," Buffum said. "Anhydrous is a water-seeking chemical, so that fog pattern wraps the chemical in the air and holds it close to the ground. It protects that plume from going anywhere."

Buffum said anhydrous plumes can expand very quickly, so it is imperative to contain leaks quickly when they occur in residential areas.

Typically, Buffum said there are two or three anhydrous situations each year in Cass County. Every firefighter in the state is required to undergo hazardous material training, and the EMA is continuing to offer classes to train first responders.

"Right now we've got our safety officer class which is more advanced," he said. "It teaches the officers of leadership in fire departments how to monitor personnel, monitor the hazards, make sure we have personal protective equipment, and know proper isolation zones and everything to keep responders and the public safe."

Buffum said the most important way the public can assist responders with anhydrous situations is by following evacuation orders and staying away from the area.

He mentioned that residents who disregard police vehicles and fire trucks blocking the road can cause secondary collisions that put everyone in even more danger.

"It's interesting, and everybody wants to see what's going on, but give responders and recovery personnel the space they need to do their jobs so they can make everything safe and open the roads back up," Buffum said. "Everybody just wants to go home safe."


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