Injured in the Beach Park ammonia spill?
Call (612) 337-6126

Not many lawyers are experienced with anhydrous ammonia – Elliot Olsen is one of the few. If you know someone injured in the Beach Park ammonia spill, please have them call Elliot at (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Beach Park ammonia spill: What you should know

Two people are still in the hospital after last week’s Beach Park ammonia spill 40 miles north of downtown Chicago.

Anhydrous ammonia is a mysterious chemical to most people, but more is being learned about it in the wake of last week’s Beach Park ammonia spill north of Chicago.

The April 25 incident injured 37 people – some reports had more than 40 – and sent seven victims to hospitals. According to the most recent news reports out of Chicago (Beach Park is about 40 miles north of downtown), two of the seven remain hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

Officials said that the other 35 victims were discharged. All 14 first responders – 11 firefighters and three law enforcement officers – who were among those injured have been sent home.

Beach Park ammonia spill:
Dramatic 911 recording

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office released three recorded calls to 911 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Lake County News-Sun, a regional newspaper based in Gurnee, Illinois. A sheriff’s office spokesperson said the calls were examples of “hundreds of calls” fielded during the incident.

One call was from a woman who can be heard saying “for God’s sake” as the 911 dispatcher interrupts her with “911 Lake County.” The transcript continues:

Woman (her voice rising at the end): “Oh, please, we need some help over here.”
Dispatcher: “OK, where are you at?”
Woman (sounding out of breath): “Green Bay Road, Green Bay Road.”
Dispatcher: “Where on Green Bay?”
Woman (gasping): “Just north of … just north of Wads … Wadsworth Road.”
Dispatcher: “Are you involved?”
(The woman’s reply was incoherent and rambling, so the dispatcher asked again.)
Woman: “I don’t know what it is,” then added, “it’s ammonia or something” and coughed.

Later during the call, the woman told the dispatcher to “tell the cars don’t go through there, don’t go through there. Oh, my God, it’s horrible — I can’t believe people are getting out of their cars.”

Beach Park ammonia spill:
About anhydrous ammonia

Anhydrous ammonia is the gas or compressed liquid form of ammonia that contains no water – that is, it is an- (without) hydrous (water). It’s made up of one part nitrogen, and three parts hydrogen.

According to, anhydrous ammonia is “an important compound, used in a diluted form in everyday household cleaning, as well as in the industrial cleaning industry. It has several uses in agriculture and the manufacture and synthesis of certain molecules.”

The compound often can be seen being transported in rural areas, usually in tankers or in tanks towed behind pickup trucks. Indeed, that was the case in the Beach Park ammonia spill: A tractor driver was towing tanks of anhydrous ammonia from Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, to an Illinois farm when the chemical leaked, and the spill created a toxic gas cloud.

No charges have been filed against the 59-year-old Wisconsin man who was driving the tractor, and a spokesperson said the driver and tractor owner are cooperating with investigators from the sheriff’s office and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Beach Park ammonia spill:
Contents under pressure

Anhydrous ammonia needs to be kept under pressure, and that is why it is transported using tanks. If any of the equipment used to transfer the compound fails, however, gas can be released, and a potentially deadly situation can arise.

Because anhydrous ammonia does not contain water, when it comes in contact with bodily tissue — especially the eyes, throat, and lungs — it can burn the tissue and leave scarring. The damage happens immediately, and only worsens. The tissues need to be flushed with water as soon as possible to minimize injury.

If the affected tissue is not flushed immediately, anhydrous ammonia can severely damage the lungs or skin, and if that scarring is extensive, death can occur.

Beach Park ammonia spill:
What to do in an accident

Anhydrous ammonia spills or leaks most commonly occur when the compound is being transferred into or out of tanks. For instance:

A few years ago in the Midwest, a young man was filling a tank for a farmer who thought the process was complete. The farmer started to drive away while the hose was still attached to the tanker. The coupling broke and sprayed anhydrous ammonia into the air, and the young man suffered serious injuries to his eyes and became partially blind.

Another way spills occur is when the driver is going too fast, which can cause a rollover. Most state regulations require that truck drivers who are towing anhydrous ammonia tanks must drive slower than 25 miles per hour. (Note: No information has been released on the speed of the truck in the Beach Park ammonia spill.)

Regardless of the cause of the spill, if you are near one, you must quickly get as far away as possible. Simply go upwind and keep going. Once you have reached a safe distance, wait for local officials to give the “all clear” before returning to the area.


Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by anhydrous ammonia. You can contact him for a free consultation by filling out the following form and submitting it: