A leaking nitrogen tank at Montana Silversmiths rerouted traffic Wednesday night and partially shut down Highway 78.
The problem was reported through a 911 call at 6:40 p.m. by a woman who said one of the large tanks between the business and the Cenex was "leaking a smelly gas and hissing loudly," according to Stillwater County Sheriff's Dispatch records.
"Due to surrounding equipment in the plant, and not knowing the exact cause of the problem, the fire department and local law enforcement closed down part of Highway 78 and evacuated surrounding buildings, including a couple businesses and local residences," Montana Silversmiths said in a written statement issued Thursday.
The leak was caused by a nitrogen tank safety valve fail, which has since been replaced.
Columbus Fire Rescue, Columbus police and sheriff's deputies responded to the scene, as did Montana Silversmiths management.
After consulting with a Billings Hazmat team, Columbus Fire Rescue allowed the tank to drain while keeping traffic at least 300 feet away. Traffic was diverted around Whitlocks.
All emergency crews were clear from the scene by 7:46 p.m.
Nitrogen is not a hazard to people or the environment and is an odorless, tasteless and colorless element, according to the company's statement.
Steve Muellner, CEO, states
“Montana Silversmiths would like to reassure the community that there was no harm done and no danger at any time," said CEO Steve Muellner. "The company has an emergency safety plan and procedures were followed according to the plan.”
Anew system is being designed to ensure that this issue does not re-occur.