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Officials are investigating a chemical leak Monday morning at a fertilizer plant just north of Albert Lea, MN.

Just around 9,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia leaked at Clarks Grove Fertilizer, LLC, a part of Watonwan Farm Service, officials said.

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Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas with a sharp, suffocating odor. People will notice the pungent odor at levels ranging from 5 – 50 parts per million (ppm), according to the North Dakota Department of Health. Irritating effects generally begin at levels between 25-50 ppm. More serious effects generally will not occur until levels are greater than 100 ppm. Symptoms include burning of the eyes, nose, and throat after breathing even small amounts. With higher doses, coughing or choking may occur. Exposure to high levels of anhydrous ammonia can cause death from a swollen throat or from chemical burns to the lungs.

As a precaution 15 homes ended up evacuated for safety in the northwest portion of Clarks Grove, said Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management Director Rich Hall. Clarks Grove is a town of 706 people about five miles north of Albert Lea.

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There were no employee injuries reported, said company spokesman Mike Minnehan. He said first responders on the scene were instrumental in containing the leak.

One firefighter ended up treated at the scene for inhalation issues suffered while assisting in the evacuation. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is investigating.

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