Beach Park Ammonia Spill
At around 4:25 a.m. on April 25, 2019, a large release of anhydrous ammonia occurred on Green Bay Road at Clarendon St. in Beach Park, Illinois. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office and 39 fire departments responded to the incident. Officials advised residents within a one-mile radius to shelter in place.
The ammonia gas affected residents and people traveling through the area. Emergency crews conducted door-to-door wellness checks, evaluating and treating residents as needed. Approximately 40 people were transported via ambulance to local hospitals. The Sheriff’s Office lifted the shelter in place order at 10:00 a.m.
January 31, 2020 Update
On January 31, 2021, the CDC released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) with findings from the Beach Park ammonia spill. These findings may be used to help prevent and guide response to similar incidents in the future.
May 28, 2019 Update
The Lake County Health Department conducted a third and final round of testing of water wells near the spill on May 28. Results showed ammonia levels within a normal range.
CDC / Health Department Interviews
On May 11-13, 2019, Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) staff conducted door-to-door interviews near the spill site. Residents and first responders were asked about the incident, how they were notified, and about their health.
On May 17, 2019, the CDC presented preliminary findings to the Health Department and other stakeholders. A full report will be released in about two months. Findings may be used to help prevent and guide response to similar incidents in the future.
Is the air safe?
Yes. The ammonia gas from the spill is no longer present in the air.
On April 25, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began monitoring the air at the spill site and nearby homes. Ammonia levels were detected at low concentrations inside one home. The EPA discussed the indoor levels with staff from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Lake County Health Department. The recommendation was made to open windows so the ammonia could dissipate and to monitor the air again the next day.
On April 26, 2019, the EPA completed its air quality monitoring. Inside homes, the ammonia levels were too low to be detected. Elevated ammonia levels were found in the soil near the spill. A contractor removed the saturated soil and replaced it with clean soil. Afterwards, the EPA found only slight levels of ammonia in the air at the spill site.
Is my drinking water safe?
The Health Department has tested well water from homes near the spill. The ammonia levels found do not pose a health risk to humans.
Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment, even in our bodies. It is normal for some ammonia to be found in groundwater. At these natural levels, ammonia does not pose a health risk to humans.
Homes near the spill use private wells as their water source. On April 25, 2019, the Health Department reviewed well construction records. These records show that wells near the spill get their water from a deep aquifer underneath a thick layer of clay. Because of this, there is low risk that the spill could contaminate the groundwater.
On April 26, 2019, the Health Department collected samples from wells serving six homes closest to the spill. Staff also sampled sump pits in two homes. According to ATSDR, the ammonia levels found did not pose a health risk. As a precaution, the Health Department advised residents to drink bottled water.
On April 30, 2019, the Health Department tested the wells a second time. Results showed that the ammonia levels dropped slightly. Staff completed a third round of testing at the end of May. Results showed that the ammonia levels continue to be within a normal range.
Health Information / Fact Sheets
Exposure to high levels of ammonia in air may irritate a person's skin, eyes, throat, and lungs. It may cause coughing and burns. Lung damage and death may occur after exposure to very high levels of ammonia. People with asthma may be more sensitive to breathing ammonia than others.
I breathed in ammonia gas. Should I be worried?
- Please contact your healthcare provider if you still have symptoms.
- People who initially had symptoms should see a doctor every year.
- People who do not currently have symptoms are not likely to develop complications.
For the public:
For healthcare providers:
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We recommend residents contact their village or city office to learn about what systems are in place for your community. Beach Park residents can sign up for the Emergency Notification System on the Village web site.
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Where Do I Direct My Questions/Concerns?
Lake County Health Department
Communicable Disease Program
Lake County Health Department
Village of Beach Park