Chemical Leak in Iowa Town Causes Temporary Evacuation

October 6, 2009

Residents of Olin, Iowa, returned home early Monday after being evacuated for several hours because of a chemical leak.

The leak occurred around 9:30 p.m. Sunday in a 1,500-pound tank of anhydrous ammonia at the River Valley Cooperative on the south side of town, Jones County authorities said. Anhydrous ammonia is used as a fertilizer.

Olin, which has about 700 residents, was evacuated as a chemical cloud drifted across the town.

“It was probably over half the town,” said Brenda Leonard, the county’s emergency management coordinator. “We didn’t have much wind, hardly any. And the humidity too. It held it down.”

Emergency crews couldn’t get the tank shut off and had to wait for it to run out, Leonard said.

“It burned your nose. It’s harsh,” she said. “We were stationed in the middle of town and all of sudden, boom, you could smell it more and see the fog coming up the main street. It was kind of eerie.”

Authorities went door to door telling residents to evacuate. A school bus was brought in to help several people, including some elderly residents, leave, Leonard said.
A shelter was set up at a community center in nearby Morley, where about 150 people showed up.

Residents returned home around 2:30 a.m. Monday. No injuries were reported

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