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Anhydrous ammonia leak at J.R. Simplot prompts brief evacuation

An anhydrous ammonia leak at the J.R. Simplot plant in Grand Forks triggered an evacuation this afternoon. Though initial reports indicated a major leak, fire Battalion Chief Rick Coulter said it turned out to be much less than that. "It's really...

An anhydrous ammonia leak at the J.R. Simplot plant in Grand Forks triggered an evacuation this afternoon.

Though initial reports indicated a major leak, fire Battalion Chief Rick Coulter said it turned out to be much less than that. "It's really a non-event right now."

Simplot staff were in the midst of replacing some valves when 10 to 12 gallons of the hazardous gas spilled out, tripping alarms and evacuation, he said. Simplot's venting system dispersed the gas harmlessly, though, he said.

The call to firefighters went off around 4:40 p.m. causing half a dozen fire engines and several police cruisers to rush to the scene. By about 5 p.m., they'd all left. Simplot employees casually hung around outside the plant.

Anhydrous ammonia poses a danger to human health, causing burns on contact. It's especially dangerous when inhaled, damaging lungs to the extent that the victim can no longer breathe.

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Many in North Dakota still remember news of a major anhydrous ammonia spill that hospitalized many in Minot in 2002 after a train derailment.

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