UPDATE: Injunction Filed Following Anhydrous Ammonia Leak

Chicago ─ Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joseph Bruscato today announced a court order will keep an anhydrous ammonia loading dock closed at a Rockford farm co-op  where an ammonia leak occurred earlier this month until the extent of environmental damage is known.  

 The joint filing against Conserv FS, Inc. and Schoff Farm Service, Inc. is in response to the ammonia leak that began on June 4 at Conserv FS, located at 1925 S. Meridian Rd. A driver delivering anhydrous for Schoff struck and severed the overhead anhydrous pipe connecting the tank loading stations. A shutoff mechanism on the dock failed, resulting in an uncontrolled discharge of approximately 40,000 pounds of compressed anhydrous ammonia for approximately 12 hours. Anhydrous ammonia is a hazardous substance, and exposure can cause death to humans and animals, including fish and aquatic life. Emergency responders used approximately 100,000 gallons of water to mitigate the effects of the ammonia release. The resulting contaminated waste water flowed off site into a tributary of Kent Creek.

According to the joint complaint, the ammonia release and the shutoff mechanism’s failure presents a substantial danger to human health and the environment. In addition, there must be a detailed evaluation to determine whether damage to the air, soil and groundwater in and around Conserv FS occurred before the loading dock operations are allowed to resume.

 “This incident created a significant health and safety threat in the surrounding area,” Madigan said. “The court order will ensure the facility remains closed until the shutoff system is fixed and any environmental damage is fully addressed.”

 “In any case involving the release of a potentially dangerous substance into the environment, the primary concern of the State’s Attorney’s office is the protection of residents in the area surrounding the release,” stated State’s Attorney Chief of Staff David Kurlinkus who is representing the State’s Attorney’s office in the case.  “We will provide any service and support required to assist the Attorney General as the court proceedings move forward.”

 The immediate injunction requires Conserv FS to cease any anhydrous ammonia loading activities, maintain the dikes and temporary barriers constructed for containing storm water and continue remediation of the nearby South Branch of Kent Creek that contains waste water runoff.  The order also requires Conserv FS to submit a plan to investigate soil, surface and ground water contamination and the status of drinking water wells. In addition, Conserv FS must submit an engineering report on the structural problems that contributed to the shutoff system’s failure. The Agreed Order requires Conserv FS and Schoff to submit a cleanup plan for offsite contamination for approval by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), and once approved, the defendants must implement the plan according to approved timelines. The defendants must submit a final report upon completion of remediation for review and approval by the IEPA.

 The complaint filed by Madigan and Bruscato’s offices seeks civil penalties of $50,000 for each violation of the state’s environmental laws and an additional $10,000 for each day of each violation.

 Assistant Attorneys General Robert Petti and Christopher Grant are handling the case for Madigan’s Environmental Bureau.

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- The Illinois Attorney General’s office is taking legal action against the two companies involved in an ammonia leak earlier this month.

Conserv-FS and Schoff Farm Service have been ordered to stop handling anhydrous ammonia at the plant on Meridian Road. That’s after 40,000 gallons leaded when a truck hit a pipe carrying the fertilizer. The Attorney General’s office says the crash posed a significant health threat, killing nearby fish and other wildlife.

The companies must now take steps to prevent similar mishaps in the future as well as pay for the clean-up costs at the nearby pond. They also face up to $50,000 in fines.

UPDATE: WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- We're told the Illinois Attorney General's Office has filed an injunction against Conserv-FS and Schoff Farm Service, Inc. who were involved in the anhydrous ammonia leak that happened about two weeks ago.

We will have more information about this tonight on the 23 News at 5.

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- The company at the center of a chemical spill in Winnebago County is being forced to empty a nearby pond so the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency can test the soil after plants and fish turned up dead.

Those tests will determine what it will take to get the water back to normal. You may remember, runoff water contaminated with ammonia killed fish and other wildlife following an accident at the Conserv-FS plant on Meridian Road earlier this month. Nearby wells were tested Friday and deemed safe to drink. Some homeowners hope the company will pay to test their wells again in a few months. Conserv-FS is paying to pump all the water from the pond and has pledged to restock it. Even then, neighbors are skeptical things will return to normal.

“There were 8 pound fish in there. Can you put those back? I don’t know. If not, we won't be fishing this pond for 5 or 6 years,” says neighbor Chad Attig. “It will be interesting to see next year like if any of this is affected, the trees, the grass, and the plants."

The Illinois Attorney General's Office is still trying to decide whether to file injunctions against Conserv-FS and another company involved in the ammonia leak.

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