An ammonia leak in Nebraska killed one person and evacuated many others Monday night. The ammonia leaked out of a broken pipeline underneath a road in Tekamah, a town 40 miles north of Omaha.
The one person killed was a Tekamah resident who was driving through the area at the time. An untold number of homes surrounding the leak were evacuated and multiple roads were shut down. State emergency response teams were dispatched to the site to contain and fix the problem, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
The pipeline is owned by Magellan Midstream Partners out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The cause of the broken pipeline had yet to be determined but was being investigated.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," Magellan said in a statement to International Business Times.
Anhydrous ammonia is a farm fertilizer most often used on corn and wheat. Lethal effects from the chemical can occur when levels in the air are greater than 100 parts per million. It can cause death through chemical burns to lungs or swelling of the throat. The chemical doesn’t last long in the environment, dissipating quickly after it saturates the air.
An estimated 10,000 facilities in the U.S. store potentially deadly amounts of anhydrous ammonia, according to the Center for Effective Government in Washington, D.C. Every state has communities that live near storage facilities and pipelines that, when heated or broken, have the potential to explode or leak deadly quantities. About half of the states in the U.S. have 100 or more facilities that store and use anhydrous ammonia.
In 2012 alone, 870 incidents involving anhydrous ammonia were reported, according to the federal National Response Center. Leaks commonly occur in food storage facilities and food production factories. An ammonia leak in a South Boston fish warehouse killed one man in 2016, closing businesses and evacuating residents in the area due to overwhelming fumes.