Homeowners want answers following anhydrous ammonia leak


WPSD Producers

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. - They heard a loud crash, saw a plume of smoke rising and headed toward their homes, then they saw Hazmat crews stepping down their street.

Neighbors say it's only natural to ask questions, but says those questions didn't get answers. Just after 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon on Cairo Road in McCracken County, a truck pulling two 1,000 gallon tanks of anhydrous ammonia was hit by another truck.

The tanks tipped over, one of them leaked the deadly chemical into the community.

They feel like they were ignored and they want to know why.

The emergency management director says he feels like yesterday's response was a successful one but says Hazmat crews made a mistake by not communicating well with the very people they were supposed to protect.

The woman who snapped these photos from her back yard doesn't want to be identified, we'll call her Pam. When Pam got home from work Thursday, she saw her neighbors in her back yard, and asked what was going on.

"About that time I started tasting it in my mouth," Pam said.

She was tasting anhydrous ammonia, leaking from the tank that tipped over on Cairo Road.

"I said we don't need to be out here, we need to be getting inside," Pam said.

Hours later, she noticed emergency responders walking in front of her house.

She says she asked them if the air was safe to breathe, but they kept on walking.

After two hours Pam said she decided to take matters into her own hands and evacuate so she got in her car and got to the end of the road where she says a person in a Hazmat outfit told her to stop and go back homeShe asked why.  He said he didn't know, but would find out. She says he never came back, so minutes later she gave up and decided to go back home.

McCracken County Emergency Management Director Paul Carter wishes hazmat crews handled things differently.

"If we would have had someone who went on ahead to let the residents know what was going on, door to door that would have relieved their concerns," Carter said.

Pam said all she wanted was information.

After 6 p.m., Pam and her neighbors down Gayle Lane were asked to evacuate.

Carter says that's because crews had to crack open the second tank of anhydrous ammonia and they wanted to make sure people were safe so were asked to evacuate as a precaution.

Carter says they didn't get an all clear until after 2 a.m.

Lots of neighbors share Pam's sentiments, saying all they wanted was communication.

Carter says he'll hold a post-emergency meeting in the coming weeks to discuss what went wrong and how first responders can better communicate with people during an emergency.