Colorado fertilizer spill forces evacuation of homes

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 08, 2012 3:43 PM
Colorado fertilizer spill forces evacuation of homes

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A tank of ammonia-based fertilizer fell off a truck trailer and ruptured in southeastern Colorado on Wednesday, releasing a cloud of toxic vapors that forced the evacuation of 35 homes in a small farming town, officials said.

No one was reported injured in the accident, which occurred about 8 a.m. local time along a truck route used by commercial vehicles to pass through the town of Walsh, a ranching and farming community of about 700 people.

The axle of a pickup truck that was pulling two tanks of the fertilizer snapped, and the tanks slid off the trailer near town, said Riley Frazee, director of emergency management for Baca County.

"One of the tanks went nose first into the pavement," Frazee said by telephone from the scene.

Valves on one tank broke off, and vapors seeped from the damaged container, Frazee said. The 500-gallon tank contained anhydrous ammonia, which if inhaled can be fatal, he said.

Winds blew a plume of toxic gas into the town, prompting the evacuation order, authorities said.

By about 12:30 p.m., the rupture had been plugged, the tank was secured and hauled away and the evacuation order was lifted, Frazee said.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta)