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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Feb. 28, 2024

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Fertilizer plant near Moses Lake continues to smolder, emitting smoke and toxic gases


SPOKANE — The fire that destroyed a fertilizer plant Sunday near Moses Lake continued to smolder Thursday, emitting smoke and potentially dangerous gases that caused health officials to continue to urge residents to take precautions.

The health advisory from the Grant County Health District is for residents downwind of the Wilbur Ellis facility fire, according to a Grant County Sheriff’s Office news release. The release said particulate matter, similar to what can be generated from wildfire, and noxious gases are traveling with the wind.

The particulate matter van be unsafe if inhaled, according to the sheriff’s office. Seven monitoring locations set up by the Washington state Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported a downward trend in particulate concentrations east of the site. Sulfur dioxide was detected through air monitoring tests.

Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with an “irritating, pungent odor,” the release said. It is a known byproduct of burning fertilizer products, including those at the site.

Exposure to the toxic gas may irritate the eyes, nose, throat and airways. Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms or are concerned about exposure.

Officials recommended wearing a KN95 mask to protect from particulate matter. The masks do not protect from gases, including sulfur dioxide, the release said.

On Tuesday, officials lifted a shelter-in-place notice for residents threatened by smoke.

The plant collapsed after it was engulfed in flames Sunday afternoon, the sheriff’s office said. The cause of the fire, which did not cause injuries, was undetermined earlier in the week.