Man files suit after accident at American Crystal plant in Hillsboro
A man who alleges he was injured in 2008 by a sulfur-dioxide leak at a sugar beet processing plant in Hillsboro, N.D., wants three companies to be held responsible for his medical expenses and lost wages, according to a suit filed in federal court.
Conrad Rostvet, 56, of Adams, N.D., is suing American Crystal Sugar Co. of Minnesota, Lock City Transportation Inc. of Michigan and Smart-Hose Technologies Inc. of Pennsylvania.
Rostvet's suit says he was working as a contractor June 18, 2008, at the beet plant owned by American Crystal. The same day, a truck driver from Lock City Transportation had been hired to pick up sulfur dioxide from the plant, the suit says.
To transfer the sulfur dioxide, the suit says, the truck driver used a hose made by Smart-Hose Technologies. During the transfer, the hose or other parts broke or malfunctioned, releasing sulfur dioxide into the air, the suit alleges.
At the time, Rostvet was working nearby, and he was "significantly and severely injured" by the gas, the suit says.
Sulfur dioxide, which is used to process sugar beets into sugar, is a colorless gas with a strong odor. When inhaled, it can affect the lungs and at high levels may cause "burning of the nose and throat, breathing difficulties and severe airway obstructions," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
According to Rostvet's suit: Lock City Transportation was negligent in transferring the sulfur dioxide; Smart-Hose Technologies' hose and equipment were defective; and American Crystal did not properly oversee the transfer.
American Crystal denies Rostvet's allegations and blames Lock City Transportation for the leak, according to court documents filed last week. Lock City Transportation and Smart-Hose Technologies have not responded to the suit.
In 2008, the Herald reported on the leak which sent 21 people, mostly contractors, to local hospitals. Some complained of respiratory problems caused by the inhalation of sulfur dioxide. The truck driver, who was wearing protective gear, suffered sulfur-dioxide burns on his feet, according to the Traill County Sheriff's Department.
About 225 people, 150 of them American Crystal employees and the rest contractors, were evacuated from the plant, the company said. The leak, which occurred shortly before noon, was contained the same day, and the plant was re-opened that night. Officials said the leak posed no risk to the public.