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Use caution when handling, applying anhydrous ammonia this fall

Anhydrous ammonia tanks are shown in this 2007 file photo. Dave Wallis / The Forum, file

ST. PAUL -- As farmers around the state ramp up field work in the coming weeks, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is urging them to take precautions when handling, transporting or using anhydrous ammonia.

Anhydrous ammonia (also known by the chemical abbreviation NH3) is a valuable source of nitrogen for crops, but accidents that result in human exposure to the product can lead to serious injury or even death. To avoid problems with anhydrous ammonia, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Pesticide and Fertilizer Management Division offers the following tips for farmers and others handling anhydrous ammonia this fall:

- Always wear protective gear when handling anhydrous ammonia or related equipment. That means goggles, long-sleeved shirts/coveralls, and proper gloves.

- Never assume that NH3 equipment or lines are fully bled or empty.

- Don't overfill nurse tanks.

- Monitor the condition of hoses. Replace hosing if it looks bulged, cracked or cut to the cords. Be alert for signs of soft spots or separation from hose couplings, and only use anhydrous ammonia rated hoses.

- Always use a withdrawal hose of the correct length -- long enough to allow turning but not so long that it can get caught up in equipment.

- Never secure the withdrawal hose in a way that impedes the operation of the coupling device assembly.

- Coupling devices must be properly installed and maintained according to manufacturer's specifications. Maintenance should include checking for rust or corrosion and replacing couplers that do not uncouple.

- Coupling devices must be mounted in a double swivel or other device authorized by the manufacturer that allows the coupling device to move freely in all directions, and separate as needed in an emergency.

Minnesota law requires that anhydrous ammonia incidents must be reported immediately to the Minnesota Duty Officer. The Minnesota Duty Officer can be reached by phone at 1-800-422-0798. Reportable incidents include releases of anhydrous ammonia or situations that immediately threaten release into the environment.

For more details on requirements and safety guidelines for anhydrous ammonia, please visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website at www.mda.