NORTH WEBSTER — It was a long and tedious endeavor, but no one was injured and no evacuations took place in an anhydrous ammonia leak this morning at Home City Ice, 7056 N. SR 13, North Webster.
North Webster Fire Chief Jeremy Likens reported a valve on one of the large ammonia tanks malfunctioned causing the leak, believed to have begun between midnight and 12:30 a.m. today, Wednesday, Aug. 10. Likens reported a worker complained of a high ammonia smell at one of the buildings around 12:30 a.m. A semitrailer driver who came to pick up a load later reported a strong odor outside one of the buildings. The fire department was then notified at approximately 4:52 a.m.
Following protocol, because no hazmat team is available in the county, Elkhart City Fire Department was notified and arrived at the scene around 7:20 a.m. It was members of the hazmat team who located the cause of the leak and shut the valve off. Elkhart and South Bend fire departments are the closest hazmat units to the county.
Likens reported there was a high level of ammonia found inside the structure. “It was contained inside the building,” Likens said. With the assistance of the hazmat team, the building was slowly vented.
Ammonia level readings were continually monitored inside and outside throughout the ventilation process, making sure levels remained safe to release into the atmosphere. Monitoring of wind direction, speed and humidity, through the National Weather Service, was also conducted. It was several hours before levels were safe inside the building to vent out the entire building.
Firefighters cleared the scene at 1:30 p.m.
Notifications were made to the Natural Resources Commission, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, county health department, state fire marshal’s office and the local emergency management office.
North Webster Fire Department and EMS initially responded with Turkey Creek Fire Territory also responding to provide decontamination procedures. Assistance at the early stages was given by the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department and North Webster Police Department.
Business has been disrupted for Home City Ice, with speculation it will be back in operation Thursday.