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Indiana fertilizer truck overturns on way to deliver potash for field


LA PORTE, Ind. — A load of fertilizer on its way to a northern Indiana farm on May 15 spilled out when the truck hauling it overturned.

The truck belonging to Kingsbury Elevator wound up on its side on a two-lane road the wreck blocked for several hours – it didn’t take long for a wrecker to upright the truck, but the road was closed for several hours until the potash, partially on the pavement, was cleaned up with a power broom.

The driver, Allen Northern, 34, of La Porte complained of pain over his entire body, according to La Porte County Police. He declined medical treatment.

Police Captain Derek Allen said the truck eastbound on Indiana 4 overturned after turning north onto County Road 500 East. According to Kingsbury Elevator, the several-ton load shifted from the driver apparently traveling too fast while making the right turn.

LaPorte County Hazardous Materials director Jeff Hamilton said there was never any risk to the public. There were no fuel leaks and just 10 gallons of hydraulic fluid leaked from the truck, he said. He said there were also no water-filled ditches nearby to pose a risk for contamination from any of the dumped materials.

Potash is commonly used to replenish the soil with potassium essential for the health of crops, said Gene Matzat, an educator at the Purdue University extension office in La Porte. Corn and soybeans, for example, use more potassium than what the ground can sufficiently replace on its own for next year’s crop.

“It pretty much has to be used every year,” Matzat said.

Potash also contains sodium and other minerals from being in the beds of saltwater lakes that dried up millions of years ago. He said most potash used here comes from mines in Saskatchewan between Winnipeg and Edmonton, in Canada.

There’s enough potash on Earth to mine for centuries. Matzat said not all liquid fertilizers contain potassium, but those that do are more costly per pound of nutrient. Potash is also more efficient because it releases the potassium as needed by crops and is easier to spread in the fields, he explained.

“Liquid fertilizers don’t have as much capacity to hold the nutrients; in other words, you can’t get as high of an analysis in a liquid fertilizer as you can with a solid fertilizer, especially of the potash type,” he noted.