Three companies have now admitted allowing a toxic mix of anhydrous ammonia into a watercourse on two occasions slaughtering a total of more than 20,000 fish, hospitalising one person and forcing 100s of others to flee their homes.

In a complaint filed at the District Court of Kansas City the United States Government said Magellan Ammonia Pipeline, of Oklahoma owners of the pipeline, along with operating firms Enterprise and MAPCO, were responsible for two spills in 2004.

The court heard last Friday (14 August) that the spills, in Nebraska and Kansas, in September and October were caused by Magellan, Enterprise Products Operating and Mid-America Pipeline Company, also known as MAPCO, and both of Texas who ran the pipelines.

The ruptures resulted in one person being taken to hospital, emergency services evacuating homes within a one-mile zone and a 40-foot high vapour cloud a mile long – as a result the court fined the firms a total of $3.65m.

The Justice Department’s acting assistant attorney general, John Cruden, said: “These two pipeline spills were significant and proper notification was not given to the National Response Center when they occurred.

“The settlement will ultimately result in better training of employees and implementation of prevention systems to reduce the possibility of future discharges of harmful chemicals.

“The Kingman spill caused severe environmental damage, killing all fish for more than 10 miles in Smoots Creek, which is one of Kansas’ high-quality streams.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Magellan has also agreed to spend an additional $550,000 on improvements to prevent or minimise releases along selected segments of its pipeline system, and will establish a program to minimize third-party damage to the system.

Magellan currently runs the ammonia pipeline itself having ended its operating agreement with Enterprise and MAPCO in 2007.

Luke Walsh

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