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Leak prompts evacuation of building

Anhydrous ammonia sets off alarms in incident at Springfield company.

A HAZ-MAT crew was called to Millard Refrigerated Services in Springfield on Monday after anhydrous ammonia began leaking into the building.

Employees were conducting maintenance in the building at 1985 Airpark Drive when a valve to an anhydrous ammonia tank was accidentally struck by a scissor lift, causing a leak. Censors in the building set off an alarm to notify other workers of the leak, and the building was evacuated, said Capt. Brian Wirth with the Springfield Fire Rescue Division.

“Anhydrous ammonia is a common substance but very dangerous. It can cause asphyxiation (and) burns,” Worth said.

Anhydrous ammonia is used by Millard for refrigeration, Wirth said. It is a colorless gas with a pungent smell. Exposure to ammonia in sufficient quantities can be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The compound has been cited by experts as a possible culprit for the massive fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last year, which flattened homes, killing 14 people and injuring 200 others. That plant was also storing ammonium nitrate. Investigators have been unable to determine an exact cause for the explosion.

No one was injured during the leak, which was isolated to one room of the facility. The Springfield Twp. fire department assisted with decontamination. A HAZ-MAT crew entered the building and accessed two release valves to vent the gas outside. Wirth said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was notified of the venting.

The company will have to replace the valve, Wirth said. About 40 minutes after the initial call, employees were allowed back into the building.

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