An early fall harvest typically leads to more fall nitrogen application. Increases in accidental anhydrous ammonia releases over the past few seasons have the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) urging with farmers to review handling procedures and observe proper reporting of accidental releases.
Illinois investigations during 2010 found the leading cause of accidents to be improper management of ammonia hoses. Jean Payne, IFCA President, adds that many farmers now own their own toolbar applicators. “It’s important that growers inspect breakaway couplers to make sure they are operating properly,” she says. “Many tanks are being pulled in tandem on chisel plowed fields, resulting in severe stress on the running gears; keeping safety chains attached to the tool bar would also have also prevented many releases.”
In the event of an accident, the applicator who is in control of the ammonia at the time of its release must immediately report the incident to regulatory agencies—within 15 minutes if possible. Farmers are not exempt from these reporting requirements.
Payne says 18 gallons is considered “a significant release” and requires reporting. “That’s generally a cloud of material that results from a ruptured hose after 3-5 minutes,” she says. “There is no penalty if you report an ammonia release on time, only for not reporting a release. Please take the time to make the call. We know of several incidents where a call was not made that resulted in fines exceeding $100,000.00. There’s definitely been an increase in enforcement of the reporting regulations from both state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies,” Payne says. IFCA has prepared wallet cards for their members and farmers to carry with emergency contact numbers and reporting instructions. To order these cards free of charge, call IFCA at 309.827.2774.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture advises ammonia applicators to follow these recommendations:
- Inspect anhydrous ammonia hoses prior to each use. Looks for cracks, cuts, rubs and soft spots, as well as, “slippage” near the couplers. Always purge anhydrous ammonia from the hose or system prior to inspection.
- Perform regularly-scheduled maintenance on the tool-bar quick-coupler (refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations) to assure it is suitable for service. A visual inspection should be performed prior to each use. Check to assure hoses are the correct length for the type of nurse tank being utilized.
- When applying anhydrous ammonia, always use the safety chains provided on the nurse tank, along with the attached hitch pin and safety clip to prevent hoses from stretching and breaking. Many tanks are being pulled in tandem on chisel plowed fields, resulting in severe stress on the running gears; keeping safety chains attached to the tool bar will also help prevent a release.
- Prior to pulling a nurse tank on a roadway, purge all anhydrous ammonia from the tool-bar and hoses and secure the end valves of the hoses to the parking plugs on the tool-bar. Attach safety chains, hitch pin and safety clip. Drive at speeds 25 mph or less.
- When crossing a waterway or ditch, always turn off the liquid withdrawal valve (farmer valve) first. This will prevent an ammonia release if the tank overturns and the hose becomes detached from the tool bar.
shows common anhydrous incidents, how they happened and how they were corrected.