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Ammonia Pipeline Leak in Nebraska Kills 1, Forces Evacuation


An odd smell pushed one resident living in northeast Nebraska, about eight miles north of Tekamah, to call the Burt County Sheriff's Office on Monday, October 17. Two hours later, 59-year-old Phillip Hennig was found dead, and authorities believe the smell was directly linked to his death.

Officials believe that Henning’s death and the smell were caused by a leaking ammonia pipeline in the area. Fire officials rushed to the site once the leak was confirmed, and according to a written statement from Burt County Sheriff Robert Pickell, approximately 40 residents living in 23 homes were evacuated. A stretch of highway in the area was also shut down.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anhydrous ammonia – the type of ammonia reportedly being transported along the pipeline – is used as a fertilizer, but can cause suffocation to people trapped in its cloud. When released into the air, the vapors hang low to the ground which dramatically increases the risk for anyone in the surrounding area.

The pipeline is owned and operated by Magellan Midstream Partners. According to Bruce Heine, the Director of Government and Media Affairs at the company, the incident is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). A spokesman for the NTSB confirmed the agency’s investigation, but could not give more information at the time.

According to Magellan Midstream Partners, 50 employees were on site with state and local emergency responders and federal regulators investigating the leak, and had shut down the section of the pipeline where the leak reportedly occurred. The company released a statement about the work being done to combat the leak:

“Progress is being made on repairs at the release site and air quality readings continue to improve. It is our goal to completely isolate the failed portion of the pipeline (Wednesday), which will allow the reopening of local roadways.”

Local news outlet KPTM also reported that Magellan Midstream Partners will pay for the evacuated families’ expenses.

The Domina Law Group has decades of experience handling all kinds of pipeline cases, including successfully halting the construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline after years of litigation. If you are interested in contacting one of our attorneys, give us a call at (888) 387-4134 or fill out our online form to give us more information about your case.

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