Ammonia leak contained

Published 9:24 am Thursday, July 29, 2010

RICH SQUARE – A leaking cylinder, apparently one left behind years ago during the operation of an ice plant here, is to blame for an ammonia leak on Tuesday.

Rich Square Police Chief Alan Roye said he responded at around 12 noon to an area at East Jackson Street and Depot Street near the railroad tracks to check on the strong odor of ammonia in the area.

“When I arrived I noticed the smell of ammonia and also saw a foggy mist in the woods where the old ice plant use to be,” Chief Roye said. “I talked to a local business owner who told me that he saw a large white plume of smoke coming from that area before I arrived and he saw a red Ford F-150 pickup truck loaded with metal scrap leaving the area at a high rate of speed headed east on 561 (toward Ahoskie).”

Roye said the amount of ammonia in the air was enough to cause irritation to the business owner’s eyes and nose.

“The smell was awful in his business,” Roye noted. “I had the Rich Square Fire Department and Northampton County Emergency Management to respond.”

The area was secured and the source of the leak was found. It was a 100 pound cylinder tank that apparently was left over from the ice plant from at least 30 years ago. Ammonia was used at that time during the ice manufacturing process.

“The tank was still leaking some ammonia,” Roye said. “Emergency Management called a Haz-Mat specialist from Nu-Corp who placed the container in a special bag and took it away.”

Roye said the area was deemed clear and safe following the removal of the tank. However, the ammonia killed a lot of vegetation in the area, turning leaves black.

“It is apparent that the people responsible for this were trespassing and stealing the scrap metal from the old ice plant,” Roye alleged. “It just goes to show you that it is illegal to trespass on another’s property and steal from them, even if what they were taking is only junk.”

He continued, “The point is that it is not your junk. Ask first. The property owner might be glad to let you clean up the junk, but you have to get permission and check the area for dangerous materials. You never know what you are going to find in old junk piles. There is a lot of dangerous stuff out there.”

“I can only imagine if someone may have been injured in this incident,” Roye added. “I notified local hospitals to report anyone coming in with chemical burns or any other chemical related injury, but have had no reports so far.”

Those with information as to the identity of the person or persons responsible are asked to contact the Rich Square Police at 252-539-2136.

“I don’t need your name, just your information,” Roye concluded.