Ag department warns farmers to check for faulty anhydrous ammonia tanks

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is encouraging farmers to check any anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks they have on their farm for pinhole leaks or faulty welds that could undermine the integrity of the tank. Exposure to gaseous ammonia can result in lung damage and death, so it is very important that any leaks be discovered in a timely manner.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship conducts annual inspection of tanks located at commercial fertilizer dealers and have found several tanks from American Welding & Tank that had leaks. The Department has sent a letter to all anhydrous dealers to share their concerns about the tanks, but wanted to communicate with farmers as well who will soon be starting fall fertilizer applications.

“Farmers will soon be taking anhydrous tanks out to the field for fall fertilizer applications, so it is important they take the time to look over their tanks and report any leaks to their local provider,” Northey said. “We have been in contact with fertilizer dealers across the state to share our concerns about these tanks, but wanted to share with farmers as well so they can take steps to check their tanks and make sure they are not leaking.”

Response

American Welding & Tank, North America’s leading provider of anhydrous ammonia storage tanks, issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“At American Welding & Tank, customer safety is a primary concern. The company has always worked, and will continue to work, with customers to minimize any safety risk using and maintaining anhydrous ammonia storage tanks and to quickly and effectively respond to any issues.

“Because of the corrosive nature of anhydrous ammonia and general wear and tear on equipment, customers should regularly inspect tanks and related equipment for any sign of damage, wear, or leak.

“American Welding & Tank values its customers and recommends they continue to observe industry best practices by following this protocol to ensure leaks are immediately detected and treated:

Make sure tanks are properly secured at all times, including during transport.

Inspect tanks daily, before and after use, for signs of a leak or any other damage.

If there is a leak, users will notice a foggy discharge. If you see a foggy discharge, step away from the tank and contact your equipment supplier who will contact the manufacturer of the tank or equipment. You may also contact American Welding & Tank directly at 866-431-8288 if it is an AWT tank.

Anhydrous ammonia has a sharp, irritating, pungent odor that acts as a warning of potentially dangerous exposure.

Detection

Leaks should be easily detected. If you notice this odor, step away from the tank and contact your equipment supplier who will contact the manufacturer of the tank or equipment. You may also contact American Welding & Tank directly at 866-431-8288 if it is an AWT tank.

Because anhydrous ammonia is stored under pressure, ice often forms at or around the area of the leak. If you notice a small patch of ice on the outside of your tank, step away from the tank and contact your equipment supplier who will contact the manufacturer of the tank or equipment. You may also contact American Welding & Tank directly at 866-431-8288 if it is an AWT tank.

Customers should not attempt to repair leaks themselves because weld repairs must be completed by an authorized repair facility. American Welding & Tank will repair weld issues at no cost to the customer for AWT tanks manufactured within the last three years, in accordance with our extended warranty policy.

Tanks designed and manufactured to store anhydrous ammonia are clearly labeled on the data plate as “Type NH3.” Customers should not use tanks designed for other purposes to store anhydrous ammonia. Any customer doing so should immediately contact their equipment dealer to arrange for the appropriate tank.

American Welding & Tank is not aware of any incidents of serious injury sustained through a pinhole leak of anhydrous ammonia involving one of the company’s tanks. Additionally, the company is unaware of any instance in which pinhole leaks led to a rupture or larger release of anhydrous ammonia.”

Recommendation

The Iowa Department of Agriculture urges farmers who find a tank leaking to contact the dealer who provided the tank. Leaking tanks are a serious health threat and it is important farmers exercise caution and work with their local dealer, said the Department, which has issued “stop use” orders on fifteen tanks found to be leaking during its annual inspection process.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is responsible for the regulation of nurse tanks and have been informed of the Department’s findings as well.

Anhydrous ammonia is an efficient and widely used source of nitrogen fertilizer. However, it must be stored and handled under pressure, requiring specially designed and well-maintained equipment. Few problems occur when the ammonia is being handled and applied as intended.

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