CALHOUN COUNTY, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office says they are investigating a pipeline rupture that prompted the evacuation of over 200 residents because of an ammonia leak. According to deputies, on September 23, 2021, Charles Martin, an excavator operator hit an anhydrous ammonia pipeline. The rupture allowed over 4,400 pounds of NH3 ammonia into the air prompting the involvement of multiple local, state, and federal agencies to respond to the area near Hampton, Arkansas.
Deputies say the operator of the pipeline, NuStar Energy, shut down all flow of the pipeline that runs over 2,000 miles from Louisiana to Indiana and Nebraska until repairs were completed on September 28, 2021. According to the deputies, evacuations were initiated in a 2.5-mile radius of the leak affecting more than 180 residents and involved the closure of several miles of highway.
Deputies tell us their investigation shows Martin moved an excavator a third of a mile from a directed dig location and placed it right on top of the NH3 pipeline that was clearly marked. Officials say Martin began to dig without authorization and hit the pipeline at least two times before it ruptured.
Deputies say several individuals suffered from respiratory distress when they were exposed to the ammonia–which is hazardous and can cause chemical burns. Officers say the remediation costs to date have totaled over $700,000.00.
According to deputies, Charles Martin was arrested on October 29, 2021, for violating the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act.
To read the complete release from their Facebook page, click here.