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Investigation of chemical leak in Lake City could take days

Mar 18, 2007 | AP

It could be several days before investigators determine the cause of an anhydrous ammonia leak Saturday morning that forced the evacuation of part of Lake City.

The Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad will work with the Canadian Pacific Railway to determine why a problem developed with a valve on a customer's tanker car that carried 28,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia, said Jafar Karim, a spokesman for the IC&E in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Local officials said only a small amount of the ammonia leaked out in Lake City. The noxious fumes forced the evacuation of about 100 homes in the Edge O' Town mobile home park on Hwy. 61 on the south side of Lake City. Authorities said no one was injured.

The Red Cross opened an evacuation center at a Lake City church, where residents forced from their homes spent the day playing games, eating donated meals and waiting for word about when they could return home. Hwy. 61 was reopened about 1 p.m. Saturday and crews gave the all-clear to residents to return home.

Mayor Katie Himanga gave residents of the mobile home park credit for reacting quickly to the evacuation order.

"People were confused," she said. "Some of them were woken up [by the warning]. They may or may not have picked up any of the scent."

The episode put Lake City's emergency response plan to the test, Himanga said, and "the plan worked extremely well."

Ronald Bost, a Red Cross volunteer, said the volunteers had just participated in a training exercise three weeks earlier in Wabasha and were well-prepared for an emergency.

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