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Anhydrous leak hospitalizes Stateline employee

By Staff | Oct 27, 2008

State officials are continuing their investigation of an anhydrous ammonia leak at a Pilot Grove Township farm that hospitalized a Stateline Cooperative employee.

John Pernes was treated at United Hospital District in Blue Earth, then transported to a Rochester hospital after being exposed to the chemical he was applying to a field Monday night.

“It was a malfunctioning pipe on a nurse tank that was leaking. It was not a storage tank,” says Larry Sterk, the cooperative’s general manager in Burt, Iowa.

Ed Kaiser, an ag chemical consultant with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says a field investigator was sent to the site the next day to conduct an investigation.

“It’s to determine the cause of the spill, what happened and whether any state regulations were violated,” Kaiser says.

Sterk says cooperative officials became aware of the spill around 8:30 p.m.

Once they did, Minnesota officials overseeing chemical spills and state Agriculture Department were immediately notified.

“The employee was exposed to the fumes of the chemical. He was managing the spill when another worker arrived to help him,” Sterk says.

Fifteen firefighters from the Blue Earth Fire Department and a Faribault County deputy sheriff were at the scene.

Fire Chief Terry Campbell says medical attention was given to the man. He says Pernes was transported by Blue Earth ambulance to United Hospital.

“He was conscious. The fumes caused irritation to his eyes, throat and lungs,” says Campbell, adding Pernes did not get any chemical on his skin.

Pernes was kept overnight in Rochester, says Sterk, for observation and as a precaution.

During the onsite investigation, the state official inspected training materials the cooperative had regarding hazardous chemical spills and whether the applicator was licensed.

“All of our paperwork seemed to be in order,” Sterk says.

Campbell says firefighters remained at the scene for nearly one hour.

Kaiser says he is not sure how long the investigation will take because a “variety of sources” will need to be interviewed.