SHARONTWP.— Prompted by debate in the township, state Rep. Bill Batchelder has introduced a bill that would revise regulations on the construction and use of anhydrous ammonia tanks in Ohio.
Batchelder, R-Medina, said House Bill 583 would change regulations written in 1978 and require all systems built in Ohio conform to the federal Department of Homeland Security guidelines.
“Given the changes in society and the modernization of the agriculture industry since 1978, it is imperative that these regulations be updated to reflect the times we live in,” Batchelder said.
Batchelder said the bill was prompted by debate over a controversial permit that will allow the installation of a 12,000-gallon anhydrous ammonia storage tank at South Springs Farmon Beach Road.
“Recent events in Medina County involving these facilities have prompted me to review the statutes governing how and where these facilities are built, and who may build them,” he said.
At a meeting attended by Batchelder at Sharon Elementary School on June 12, residents expressed concern that a leak in the tank could be deadly, especially to the 116 people living within 2 miles of the tank.
Anhydrous ammonia, which is stored as a liquid under pressure, becomes a toxic gas when released into the atmosphere. The corrosive gas can cause respiratory injuries and burn the skin and eyes. In high concentrations, it can be deadly, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report.
The installation of the tank was approved by the Ohio Department of Agriculture on April 5. ODA officials said the applicant is in compliance with state regulations and they have no reason to revoke the permit.
H.B. 583 would prohibit the construction of anhydrous ammonia storage facilities in densely populated areas; however, the Department of Agriculture will need to hold hearings and adopt language to explain exactly what “densely populated” means, Batchelder said.
“Essentially, the bill would prohibit construction in densely populated areas, but we are still working on that definition,” he said.
The bill also would require that anyone wishing to construct an anhydrous ammonia storage facility would have to apply and receive approval from the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Batchelder said.
It “would permit the Department of Agriculture to use discretion in approving an application by considering past violations or abuses involving chemicals or fertilizers,” Batchelder said.
While applying to construct a facility, the applicant also would have to submit a written notification to local government, fire and law enforcement officials, he said.
While Batchelder was working on the bill, Phillip Linden, 75, of LaGrange, died after his truck carrying anhydrous ammonia went off the road July 7 and into trees on Beach Road.
About 20 homes were evacuated following the accident after the tank leaked.
Batchelder said incidents like the one in July indicate there needs to be more control over chemicals like anhydrous ammonia.
“It is obvious that this is something that ought to have better control within the Department of Agriculture,” he said.
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