Injured in Beach Park spill?
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Elliot Olsen is one of the few lawyers in the country with anhydrous ammonia experience. If you or a family member were injured in the Beach Park spill, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

Beach Park spill could leave some forever disabled

Some victims of the April 25 Beach Park spill of anhydrous ammonia in northern Illinois might be permanently disabled, officials are saying. Meanwhile, a lawsuit on behalf of five victims was filed Wednesday in Chicago.

It has been more than a month since the Beach Park spill of anhydrous ammonia that sent more than 30 people to the hospital in northern Illinois, and officials are now saying that some of the injured might be permanently disabled.

Thirty-seven people were hospitalized April 25 after anhydrous ammonia leaked from a 2-ton tanker near 29th Street and Green Bay Road in Beach Park, which is about 45 miles north of Chicago along Lake Michigan. First-responders were among seven victims who where admitted in critical condition.

Nearby resident Pamela Burnett told Chicago’s WGN-TV she drove into the cloud because she didn’t realize it was toxic.

“The next thing I know I couldn’t breathe, I was suffocating.” Burnett said. “My eyes were watering … I was just, I was panicking.”

Beach Park spill:
Persistent problems

Officials issued a “shelter-in-place” order to residents who live within a mile of the incident, advising people to stay inside and keep windows closed. Not everyone heard the order, however, and anyone who stepped outside quickly passed out.

Asked how serious injuries could be, Vista Medical Center director Kenji Oyasu said: “Only time will tell.”

Several victims spent as long as a week in intensive care because of the chemical burns to their lungs. Many say they are still ill, and continue to see lung specialists. Some have reported experiencing partial blindness, as well as an inability to speak and persistent lung problems, including coughing.

Beach Park spill:
Lots of questions

Trees and bushes in the area have turned brown, and residents say they are wondering: If this is what the anhydrous ammonia did to the plants, what did it do to their lungs?

Yellow caution tape still surrounds the scene of the Beach Park spill, but since April 25, residents told WGN that they haven’t heard much from officials. Investigators for the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) tested nearby water sources and cautioned people to drink bottled water as a precaution, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not been back, according to residents.

Investigators for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) returned to the area last week to check on the health of residents. Asked by a WGN reporter about potential long-term effects of exposure to anhydrous ammonia, CDC officials responded that it depends on the severity, length and location of exposure. Small to moderate exposure likely won’t cause long-term effects, but severe exposure could cause permanent conditions such as glaucoma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

Beach Park spill:
Lawsuits filed

As hospital bills pile up for some victims, others are wondering how they will pay for the damage done to their property.

“It’s not only my own property, it’s all the neighbors in the area that have been destroyed as well,” Lyle Caldero said.

In many cases, homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover damage done by a toxic substance. Many residents are waiting for the incident report, but that won’t be released until the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) finishes its investigation.

Some, however, have decided not to wait. Five victims are suing the driver who was transporting the anhydrous ammonia as well as the farm that employed him.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Chicago, John Kevek Farms Inc. in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and Warren Reck, the driver of the tractor, were accused of negligence, negligent training, willful and wanton conduct, ultra-hazardous activity, and public nuisance.

Beach Park spill:
Used for fertilizer

Farmers generally use anhydrous ammonia to fertilize soil. The chemical, however, turns from liquid to gas quickly when it is not under pressure.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association said that in the case of the Beach Park spill, the hose on the tanker apparently was connected, which can produce a dangerous situation. Under Illinois state law, that is not allowed while transporting anhydrous ammonia on public roads.

Illinois has about 28,000 anhydrous ammonia tanks. 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.


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: