Donaldsonville Primary School evacuates due to CF Industries ammonia leak; all clear by noon

Staff Report
The CF Industries Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex is the world’s largest nitrogen facility, according to the company. It is located on 1,400 acres along the west bank of the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish, near the Donaldsonville city limits.

All Donaldsonville Primary School students and staff were sent to the Lowery Elementary/Middle School campus due to an ammonia leak at CF Industries.

According to an Ascension Parish Schools Facebook post, the evacuation was done out of an abundance of caution.

The Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office announced the following intersections in Donaldsonville were closed due to a hazmat incident: Hwy. 18 and Jones Rd.; Hwy. 18 and Gautreau Rd; Thibaut and Hwy. 3089; Hwy. 70 and Hwy. 3137; Lemannville Cut Off road near Hwy. 18; and Hwy. 70 at the Railroad.

According to an APSO post around 11:45 a.m., all roads were reopened.

"The hazmat incident at CF Industries has been cleared and all roadways are back open," a spokesperson stated in a Facebook post.

APSO had set a perimeter and were investigating as a precautionary measure.

Donaldsonville Primary School is located along Hwy. 3089 and is separated from CF Industries by a sugar cane field.

The school planned to have an early release at 1 p.m.

"Arrangements were being made to feed students lunch at Lowery before they will load buses for their return home. Any student who does not have a parent or guardian at home will remain at Lowery until he or she can be safely picked up," a spokesperson stated in a Facebook post.

Additionally, the Ascension Parish Library announced its Donaldsonville location was closed. The library planned to open again at 1:30 p.m.

CF Industries statement

In a news release, CF Industries confirmed the complex had an ammonia release in an ammonia storage loading area onsite around 6:30 a.m. Dec. 1.

A spokesperson said the company quickly activated its emergency response plan and notified officials and agencies.

Other than Donaldsonville Primary School, no other community locations were asked to shelter-in-place, according to the release.

Containment work was done at the site with monitoring in place.

No injuries have been reported related to the incident.

In a release later in the day, the company reported work to contain the release began immediately and the release was fully halted at around 11:40 a.m.

Air monitoring by CF Industries personnel did not detect any levels of ammonia at the school during the incident, the company said.

“Our primary focus is always on the safety of our employees, our neighbors and the environment,” said Morris Johnson, general manager, Donaldsonville Complex. “CF Industries will continue to work with local officials to provide any additional updates on the incident as warranted.”

All appropriate local emergency response and government officials were notified of the incident, according to the release.

An investigation will be conducted by the company in cooperation with appropriate authorities, the company reported.

Gonzales Weekly Citizen and Donaldsonville Chief, part of the USA Today Network of Louisiana, cover Ascension Parish and the greater Baton Rouge area. Follow at facebook.com/WeeklyCitizen and facebook.com/DonaldsonvilleChief