Farmers need to check any anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks they have on their farm for pin-hole leaks or faulty welds, leaking hoses, fittings, valves, etc. that could undermine the integrity of the tank. Exposure to gaseous ammonia can result in lung damage and death, so it is very important that any leaks be discovered in a timely manner.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship conducts annual inspection of tanks located at commercial fertilizer dealers and has found several tanks from American Welding & Tank that had leaks. The department has sent a letter to all anhydrous dealers to share their concerns about the tanks, but wants to communicate this safety message with farmers as well, as farmers will soon be starting fall fertilizer applications.
Take time to check nurse tanks now and report any leaks
"Farmers will soon be taking anhydrous tanks out to the field for fall fertilizer applications, so it is important they take time to look over their tanks and report any leaks to their local provider," says Iowa ag secretary Bill Northey. "We have been in contact with fertilizer dealers across the state to share our concerns about these tanks, but want to share with farmers as well so they can take steps to check their tanks and make sure they are not leaking."
If a farmer finds a tank leaking they should contact their dealer who provided the tank. Leaking tanks are a serious health threat and it is important farmers exercise caution and work with their local dealer.
Few problems occur with anhydrous when handled safely
The department has issued "stop use" orders on 15 tanks found to be leaking during its annual inspection process. The U.S. Department of Transportation is responsible for the regulation of nurse tanks and have been informed of the state ag department's findings as well.
Anhydrous ammonia is an efficient and widely used source of nitrogen fertilizer. However, it must be stored and handled under pressure, requiring specially designed and well-maintained equipment. Few problems occur when the ammonia is being handled and applied as intended.