Investigators are trying to determine why a group of storage tanks failed in Hemingford this week, unleashing hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquid fertilizer.
Hemingford Volunteer Fire Chief Shad Bryner tells KNEB News firefighters and other emergency responders were called to Farmer’s Co-op around 9 a.m. Wednesday, finding approximately nine storage tanks had failed, two containing water and seven with a liquid fertilizer. Bryner says 210,000 gallons of the fertilizer was released, much of which flowed into storm drains then into the ditch along Nebraska Highway 2 for about half a mile outside of town.
“It happened so quickly that Farmer’s (staff) did a good job of getting there right away and doing what they could,” says Bryner. “They got a lot of help in to help them out with pumping and getting it contained, and stopping it as much as possible.”
Both Bryner and Farmer’s Co-op General Manager Bart Moseman said they did not believe the spilled product, identified as 10-34-0 (ammonium polyphosphate), poses any present hazard. Moseman says the company is providing updates on the clean-up to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, which was notified immediately of the sudden release.
“We don’t really know what happened or why it happened, we’re all still investigating that,” says Moseman, “but there was a significant loss of inventory we had in those tanks.” He declined to place a dollar figure on the damage and value of the lost product, but he did tell KNEB News it was ‘considerable’.
In addition to his staff, Moseman thanked competitors Westco, Simplot and Panhandle Co-op, all of which provided tankers and staff to help contain and salvage as much of the product as possible. He says Westco provided a location for the reclaimed product to be stored while a determination is made on whether it can be used at some point in the future.
Initial response to the scene included Hemingford Police, the Box Butte County Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska State Patrol.