In the midst of a New York Times article about the Ukrainian tensions mounting, this chemical subplot:
Ukrainian officials and U.S. diplomats have focused on one possibility in particular in the region: an accident at one of the most dangerous industrial sites in eastern Ukraine, an ammonia gas factory in separatist-held territory a few miles from the Ukrainian frontlines.
Ammonia is a component of fertilizer but can be lethal in high concentrations.
A chemical leak releasing a toxic plume is one prime possibility, potentially poisoning soldiers and civilians on both sides of the front, officials say. It might justify, for example, a Russian deployment of emergency cleanup crews with an escort of soldiers.
Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, have publicly warned that Russia shipped canisters of gas to the factory site, adding to vast stockpiles already there. The sprawling, rusty factory is poised for an accident, they say.
With both Russia and Ukraine now talking about chemical leaks in this area, local authorities have plans to sound a siren to warn civilians, though it is unclear how they might protect themselves other than closing windows.
This got me interested in how to deal with an anhydrous ammonia leak, which led me into this useful Minnesota government website:
Applying water is the most effective tool to fight an anhydrous ammonia release. Before the decision is made to aggressively attach the release many factors must be reasoned through.
Vehicles must approach carefully from up wind or from the side. It is difficult if not impossible to drive across a freshly plowed or muddy field with fire truck apparatus not to mention hauling water out to the site of an ammonia release.
Having enough water is vital. As a rule of thumb, 100 gallons of water is needed for every gallon of product released. A 500-gallon apparatus will only allow a few minutes of support. A long-term sustained attack will require lots of water and in rural locations this means shuttle operations.
If a fire is impinging on the ammonia tank the pressure relief valves must be working properly. Keep the tank cool by applying water on its shell.
Something tells me that this factory doesn't have a lot of water available to whomever decides to response to a potential ammonia release...