The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week awarded the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship a $70,000 grant to assist with outreach, education and implementation of the federal Clean Air Act's Risk Management Program. All fertilizer facilities that handle, process or store more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are subject to EPA's chemical safety requirements.
"EPA wants to assure the continued safe handling of anhydrous ammonia which is a source of nitrogen fertilizer widely used for corn, wheat and milo," says Karl Brooks, regional administrator for EPA Region 7, headquartered in Kansas City. "This grant is designed to prevent ammonia releases and to protect the health and safety of area residents, employees at the facilities, emergency responders and the environment."
IDALS is receiving this funding to conduct on-site audits, workshops and follow-up safety assessments at ag retail anhydrous ammonia facilities in Iowa, says Brooks. Anhydrous ammonia is generally safe provided handling, storage 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.
More accidents reported for ammonia than any other chemical
EPA Region 7 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 of releases have been caused by anhydrous ammonia thefts. Anhydrous ammonia 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. Learn more at: www.epa.gov/region07/toxics/arpp.htm.