Anaheim : Fertilizer Solution Spills From Fricker Co. Plant

About 100 gallons of highly diluted fertilizer solution spilled from the Larry Fricker Co. into a nearby storm drain Monday afternoon in what an Anaheim Fire Department official called "an illegal dumping."

But Mark Younis, the Fire Department's hazardous materials specialist, said the substance--while "fairly toxic" in concentrated forms--posed no serious health threat because it was so watered down. There was no evacuation and no injuries were reported, he said.

Younis said Paul L. Etzold, owner and president of the Larry Fricker Co., was not cited for illegally dumping hazardous materials pending further investigation.

The spilled solution--a urea ammonium nitrate mix used to make fertilizer--was discovered about 1:30 p.m. by Caltrans workers at the State College Boulevard on-ramp to the westbound Riverside Freeway, Younis said.

Etzold said in an interview that two of his employees were trying to rinse what they believed was rust or "shale" from a 500-gallon tank they thought was empty.

Younis said the rinse water mixed with the urea ammonium nitrate residue to create a vivid yellow fluid that ran off the property and trickled into a storm drain.

Members of the Anaheim Fire Department's hazardous materials team blocked the freeway ramp and samples of the solution were drawn, Younis said. County health officials also responded to the scene.

The agricultural fertilizer and pesticide supply firm's warehouse was the scene of a spectacular arson blaze on June 22, 1985. The fire generated a toxic cloud that prompted the evacuation of 7,500 residents and a number of businesses for four days.

That fire led to the filing of million-dollar civil lawsuits against Fricker and some public agencies, such as the City of Anaheim for its handling of the incident.

Two years ago, the Orange County district attorney sued the firm, seeking $1.6 million in damages for a spill of improperly stored chemicals at the company's former location in Tustin. Prosecutors have charged company officials with handling and disposing of toxic materials illegally in the case, which is scheduled for trial later this year.

But Younis said Monday that the company received a clean bill of health from a fire code inspection conducted last November.

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