Firefighter claims severe, permanent disability from Beach Park ammonia spill: lawsuit

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CHICAGO — A firefighter is the latest person to file a lawsuit over the Beach Park ammonia spill in April that sent more than 40 people to the hospital.

The 23-year-old firefighter said he has a "severe and permanent disability" from the spill.

The lawsuit names the driver of the tractor carrying the ammonia and his employer, John Kevek Farms. It says the company did not train employees correctly or did enough to prevent the spill.

An attorney for John Kevek Farms has not responded to the lawsuit.

On April 25, a farm tractor was pulling a pair of two-ton tanks of anhydrous ammonia near Green Bay Road and 29th Street in Beach Park when the tanks started to leak, creating a dangerous plume.

According to the CDC, anhydrous ammonia is a colorless gas used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant. It gives off "pungent, suffocating fumes," that can cause eye and throat irritation, chest pains, pulmonary swelling and even burns. It can be fatal if inhaled at high concentrations.

Illinois has about 28,000 anhydrous ammonia tanks in use. They are inspected by the Illinois Department of Agriculture annually. On average, there are fewer than 10 leaks a year, according to the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association.

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