Scranton Craigslist: Small steam engine (Vertical) for sale
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    Default Scranton Craigslist: Small steam engine (Vertical) for sale


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    Doug:

    I took a look at the photos in the Craigslist posting. From what I can see, there is no steam engine, nor is there a phase converter. Rather, what is shown is an old refrigeration compressor unit, probably for ammonia refrigeration. It looks like a reefer compressor unit from something like a butcher shop with a walk-in cooler or freezer. The Century "phase converter" is the motor driving the reefer compressor. From the type of pipe fittings on the compressor, it is an old ammonia reefer compressor. I'd bet the farm this is neither a steam engine nor a phase converter ! It may have been down in the basement of an old commercial building in which there had been a butcher shop or small meat packing plant. Being in Scranton, PA, it would not surprise me if that reefer unit had been in a local kielbasa or pierogi shop.

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    On edit: I thought the compressor looked like an old Brunswick reefer compressor. Some squinting at the face of the pressure gauge and sure enough: "Brunswick" is on the gauge face. Brunswick built a lot of smaller reefer units for walk in coolers, and this design of compressor and its appearance were screaming "Brunswick" at me as soon as I saw the photo. The "Century phase converter", again, with some squinting at the photo of the nameplate, says: "Polyphase motor".

    The seller claims the unit was running and had been left "as is" in their building. Those old reefer systems were quite interesting. Depending on the use, the compressor might have ammonia pipes manifolded on the interior walls of a freezer compartment or, might use a heat exchanger and brine piping for cooling a walk-in cooler. Either way, I have to wonder whether the piping and any residual ammonia is still present. Would make life a bit difficult and might wind up causing a "reportable incident" if a person who did not know what they were into started taking the piping apart to remove the compressor and wound up releasing ammonia gas.

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    The solution to an ammonia leak "in the day" was to flood it with water. Ammonia has AMAZING affinity for water.

    And the solution to pollution is dilution, of course.

    Were this an actual steam engine drive compressor, it would be worth saving. As it is, I see the scrapyard in its future.

    Ammonia systems work VERY well but they are "operator dependent" and diagnosing and remedying issues is almost out of common refrigeration knowledge today. R12 changed the world.

    Joe in NH

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    Wonder if it's by dunder mifflen?

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    The wall adjacent to the Brunswick compressor unit in the Craigslist photo appears to be made of tongue-and-groove boarding run vertically, with a natural finish. This would be what the sides of a walk-in cooler would be built of years ago. Seems like the seller of this reefer compressor is clueless- says they have no idea what the unit was used for- and may have the "use" (walk in cooler) staring them in the face.

    I remember at the old Rheingold Brewery, there were two engine rooms with the big ammonia compressors. These were slow speed vertical compressors, about 12-15 feet high, built by Vilter or York. Drive was with open-frame synchronous motors. When you walked into the engine rooms, there was always a trace of ammonia gas in the air- probably a little leakage around valve stem glands. That trace of ammonia in the ambient air would always choke me right up and I'd feel like I wanted to drop to my knees. I'd put a hand over my face and breathe through my mouth, nice and slow, and it seemed like I'd acclimate to the ambient air in the engine rooms. The stationary engineers who worked in those engine rooms never seemed to notice the ammonia in the ambient air. There were gas masks in fiber-board cases with signs and arrows pointing to them in case of a heavy release of ammonia gas. I never saw anyone use those gas masks.

    Years later, I was in an old ice-plant on a fish dock in Marquette, Michigan. There was a small cast iron gauge board from a York ammonia reefer system. It had two gauges, the "York" name cast into the gauge board, and a brass plate from "Westerlin & Campbell Refrigerating Engineers, Chicago." I was allowed to take that gauge board. It had a few black steel pipe nipples and fittings still attached to it. The gauge board was sitting on a heap of junk, and no telling how long it had been there. When I unscrewed the els and nipples and valves from the gauges, I got a good whiff of ammonia, still lingering in the piping. That gauge board hangs on a wall in my garage some 43 years later. Interesting point, gotten from an ancient "American Steam Gauge and Valve" catalog: Ammonia will attack copper and copper based alloys. Gauges for Ammonia service back in the 1900's were made with iron cases, steel bourdon tubes, and the trim rings were nickel plated to protect the brass from the ammonia. By the time I worked at Rheingold Brewery, ammonia gauges used around the plant, other than on the big gauge boards in the engine rooms, were all made with stainless steel bourdon tubes and either stainless or black Bakelite cases. The big gauges in the engine rooms were all at least 12" diameter, and had the nickel plated trim rings, and were mounted on marble gauge boards.

    Brunswick was a common enough manufacturer of commercial refrigeration equipment, and I think made the transition from ammonia to freon systems. Rehingold Brewery had numerous cellars where the lagering tanks and fermenters were. These cellars were refrigerated using circulating brine in iron pipe "radiators" on the walls. The brine played hell with the iron piping, and occasional leaks due to corrosion were common. There were other refrigerated buildings in that old brewery. I have no idea of the total capacity of the reefer plant there, but the reefer compressor motors drew something like 2 megawatts of power. In the past 2-3 years, we were visiting our son in Minneapolis. He took us to some of the newer breweries. I got to talking to the people who ran the newer small breweries. Instead of refrigerated "cellars" for the fermenters and lagering tanks, the new practice is to use jacketed fermenters and lagering tanks and circulate chilled water/polyethylene glycol from a central chiller unit. I was surprised initially to see the fermenters and lagering tanks in a room at street level, and that room was not refrigerated. No more need of the old "cellars" in the modern breweries. They also do not use ammonia refrigeration, and have absolutely un-interesting reefer units with modern scroll type compressors set outdoors as packaged condensing units. No stationary engineers needed, no engine rooms, no gauge boards, no whiffs of ammonia and no hearing the whine of the big synchronous motors with the beat of the slow speed large ammonia compressors.

    The Brunswick reefer unit in this thread hearkens back to a day when having mechanical refrigeration in a business was no small undertaking, and "real" machinery was installed. No silver-brazed copper reefer tubing, but schedule 80 black steel pipe with those special flanged ring-joints used on ammonia service piping and a "real" gauge to top off the compressor. There is a Mercoid switch on the piping as well, and I suppose, as is the way of the world today, someone will discover the glass cartridge with the mercury sloshing in it (hence the name "Mercoid"). That may well set someone off about the hazardous substances with that old reefer compressor.

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    Joe -

    I like your analysis of the pictures. I think you have the wall correct. When I was about 5 or so I can remember 'working' one Saturday. My Dad had bought an old walk in cooler (but not ammonia refrigeration) about 20 miles away. It was not that big, maybe 8 feet square. We took it apart, transported it home to the ice cream stand that my Dad ran - in addition to his full time job - and reassembled it. First time I ever recall dealing with sawdust for insulation - it filled the wall cavities with the matched lumber inside and out. Had a shelf unit with tubing on the bottom to provide the cooling. Little did I know that 15 years or so later I would be studying heat transfer of a flat plate! Those walls looked just like this picture.

    I see by the ad it is actually in Shickshinny, which is just up the river from the Berwick, PA nuke power plant. All kinds of things to look at in that area for you!

    You are right about the ammonia refrigerant and smell. Joe in NH and I are graduates of the same college - but he is quite a bit younger than me. I think it was my junior year (69) our antique and small hockey rink sprung a leak in the ammonia system. It was the middle of a Vermont winter and the smell kept up for a few days, although much less pronounced after the first day. Luckily no injuries.

    Dale

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    Jim:

    Thanks for posting the old Brunswick sales literature. Aside from the technical aspects, it made me realize how much better the "upper class" lived than most Americans of that time period. Repeated references to having a butler, and the pictures of the homes may as well have been on another planet when we consider how most of the population lived. My ancestors were either slogging along through life in a primitive backwater in Eastern Europe, or were struggling to survive in slum tenements in the "New World".

    The literature also made the point that early home refrigeration systems were on par with what became commercial refrigeration systems (stores, restaurants, markets or institutional kitchens). Mention is made of "water connections", so those Brunswick systems used water cooled condensers- a handy feature which let the units be installed entirely indoors and worked fine if there was an unlimited supply of water, as from city mains vs a well system.

    By contrast, an old promotional film about Delco home and farm lighting systems shows a Delco home refrigerator system with an air-cooled condenser. The compressor and condenser are mounted outside the home. Again, something seen on commercial refrigeration units rather than home refrigerators.

    I am not sure when refrigerators became self contained appliances, but I know the G.E. "monitor top" refrigerators were some of the early "appliances" rather than the massive wooden reefer cabinets and ammonia compressor units. Years ago, in my father's house, we had two tenant apartments. One tenant refused to allow any improvements or painting for fear she would get hit with a rent increase. The result was she had an ancient refrigerator in her apartment which finally died. Dad got a new refrigerator, which, in the 1950's used freon and had a hermetically sealed "canned" compressor. Naturally, Dad and I just had to see what could be salvaged from the old refrigerator. The old refrigerator dated to the 20's, and was made by "The Seeger Refrigeration Company" of St. Louis, MO. It was a heavy old refrigerator, with a massive door. As I recall, the compressor was up on top. The refrigerant, as we found out the hard way, was sulphur dioxide gas. We figured the easiest thing to do was to cut into a line and let it bleed off. We got hit with sulphur dioxide fumes, but Dad, recalling his chemistry classes, turned the garden hose on it, saying we'd make weak sulphurous acid and maybe clear the storm drain with it. When the gas finally stopped bleeding out, we went to work at seeing what was salvageable. The tubing was all copper, with a heavy lead coating on it. The expansion valve was a massive little item, made by Detroit Lubricator and was actually adjustable. The compressor was some kind of vane pump, made of cast iron and direct coupled with a "rag joint" coupling to a cast iron frame motor. In the end, we salvaged next to nothing from that old reefer, but it was educational for me as a kid. I've never seen another old reefer like that one, let alone charged with sulphur dioxide.

    In my father's old house, there was a separate cast iron drain stack with roof vent. Dad explained this was the "ice box drain stack", and a 1 1/2" galvanized steel pipe ran into the kitchen of each apartment with a trapped connection coming out of the floor along a wall. This was to connect to the drain pans in the old ice boxes.

    In 1957, Dad combined two of the apartments into one large one for our family. In the process, Dad decided to install central air conditioning. This was unheard of in residences in our neighborhood. A contractor aptly named "Koldaire" arrived to install a crazy system known as the "Typhoon" air conditioning system. It was a bust from the git go. The Typhoon unit was designed for indoor mounting, but used an air cooled condenser, which, in our attic installation, promptly caused the compressor to burn out. The ducting, instead of being made of sheet metal, was made of fiberglass foil faced board and assembled with tape. When the unit did run, it lived up to the "Typhoon" part of the name by blowing the ducting apart and having it flapping around in the ceiling registers. Dad had a friend who was a real old time reefer man. Dad and his buddy resolved to put matters to rights. The result was Dad bought a new compressor, new expansion valve, new Penn pressure switches and a new water cooled condenser. Dad's buddy put that all together to create a water cooled condensing unit in our attic. I was about 8 years old at the time, anxious to learn, and eager to help with the job. The result was Dad's buddy taught me to silver braze reefer tubing with a Prestolite torch, and had me wriggle into all the tight places to silbraze joints or make up flared joints and help with putting things together. I have that Prestolite torch to this day and use it often enough. It was the era before the disposable tanks of refrigerant, and I remember the tanks of "Freon 22", about the size of "B" tanks of acetylene that we hauled up to the attic to charge the system with. If nothing else, I got a good education in a few things, and it kept me occupied. I was a kid who could not play at any sports (motor skills delay) and was an odd duck amongst my peers, so crawling into a reefer job in a hot and dusty attic was right up my alley. Mom would cook us up a huge meal, or we'd have a fire in the backyard and grill some steaks and Italian sausage and peppers when we'd get done with a work session on that old A/C unit conversion. It was good times, recalling Dad and his buddies and how they took care of each other. I was just a kid, but being able to really work with the men and being a part of things is something I remember quite fondly. Nowadays, to ask a kid of 8 to wriggle into a tight spot and silbraze a joint (with the mechanic watching and coaching) and being expected to work "for real" is probably the kind of thing that would get adults into hot water with child protective services. Add including that child with the grown men, allowing him to have a little wine or beer with them, and I am sure the old man and his buddies would all be locked up.

    The air handler and evaporator section of the Typhoon unit remained in place, while the guts of the water cooled condensing unit were laid out on the joists or hung from the rafters. Dad then called in a "tin knocker shop", and they put in galvanized ducting. The water cooled condenser worked like a champ, and in Brooklyn, residential water supply was unmetered. The discharge of the water cooled condenser was piped into the old ice box drain stack in the attic. Starting that central A/C system was "interesting". I'd first open a 1/2" gate valve under our laundry room sink to send cold water up to the condenser in the attic. When I had let that run for a few minutes, I'd close in the 220 volt breakers on the wall and the unit would rumble into life. This system worked for almost 30 years, and was finally killed by a series of "brownouts" that burnt out the compressor. None of the new breed of A/C contractors would touch that system. I calculated the tonnage of refrigeration that watercooled system produced and it was up around 4 1/2 tons. When the old system croaked, Dad wound up with a "split system"- a condensing unit in the front of the house, reefer tubing running up to the attic on the outside of the house, and a new air handler/evaporator in the attic. The biggest system they could put in was 3 tons, and it did the job, albeit not so interestingly as the old system.

    Seeing the old Brunswick reefer compressor that started this thread and your posting of the Brunswick literature brought back the memories. My sister and her husband are quite well to do, and have a fine house. A couple of years back, their kitchen refrigerator bit the dust. I heard assorted bitching about the fact the refrigerator was going to cost them 12 grand. I wondered what kind of kitchen refrigerator could cost 12 grand, and was told it was a high end stainless steel "side by side" unit and had to fit in a given opening in the cabinet lineup. I expected, for those kinds of prices, they'd have a separate condensing unit located outside the house. Not the case. I still find it hard to believe anyone would drop 12 grand on a kitchen refrigerator. We go to our local appliance store, talk to the salesmen, and get a reefer for a whole lot less money. As I put it, the end result is the same- the food stays cold and the frozen food stays frozen. Short of a walk-in type of cooler or freezer, I do not think any "split systems" with separate condensing units are used for refrigerators anymore. Had we had something like that Brunswick system when I was a kid, I'd have been polishing the trim on the gauges and checking belt tension, motor bearing oil, and the compressor oil at least once a day. Nice old machinery, for sure.

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    When I was just a kid..maybe 12 or 13 years old they were tearing down one of the oldest funeral homes in Modesto, California. That would have been around 1970 or so. I remember seeing a compressor they had pulled out sitting there in the ruins. What impressed me most were the huge copper piping they had cut to get it out. That copper pipe was 4" diameter. I remember seeing the fresh cut made with the hacksaw on the copper pipes. I often wondered why that would have been used in a funeral home ?

    I have the old Delco refrigeration compressor my Grandfather converted to use as an air compressor. It came from one of those big box coolers which held bottled pop. Madonna Liquor's used one up into the 1980's and always it was a treat to pic and choose from that old box cooler.

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    Copper might have been used on a Sulfur Dioxide system.

    Grandma had one of the old white enameled refrigerators with REAL door locks and hinges up until it blew in the mid-1960s. I remember as a kid going with my father to an "emergency call" at Grandma's where she complained about a "rotten egg" smell - that being the released sulfur dioxide.

    The refrigerator was from the 1930s and it owed them no additional service - if a service technician could have even been found in the 1960s (by then R-12 had ousted all competition.)

    Shortly thereafter, a "normal' square corner refrigerator appeared in Grandma's kitchen, looking frightfully small compared to the behemoth which had occupied the space previously.

    Interesting read on antique refrigerators Refrigerator Designs of the 1930s and 40s

    Einstein actually invented a refrigerator IIRC. Einstein refrigerator - Wikipedia

    Joe in NH

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    Lester:

    The refrigeration system at the funeral parlor was most likely used for refrigerated storage of corpses. A funeral parlor or mortuary would often have several bodies on the premises at once, and there would often be a delay between the time a body arrived, was prepared for a viewing, stored until the formal funeral service, and finally carted off for burial. A few days might elapse, during which time, the bodies-despite embalming- could be counted upon to decompose. That old mortuary likely had a refrigerated room for holding bodies on gurneys or preparing the, and a wall cooler with drawers for the bodies.

    The larger diameter copper pipe you saw might well have been a jacket for a water cooled condenser.

    Joe in NH's pst about the Platen-Munters and Einstein-Szlizard's patents reminded me of a type of refrigerator also in use when I was a kid. It was referred to as a "gas refrigerator". The "gas" referred to the fact the refrigerator was connected to the gas line in a home, same as a kitchen range or gas fired heating system.
    One person on our block had one, and the name on the door was "Servel". These refrigerators were sometimes referred to as "Electrolux" refrigerators- creating some more confusion as at that time, Electrolux cannister or tank type vacuum cleaners were quite popular with the houswives in our neighborhood.

    Year later, when I worked in the backwaters of South America, I saw "Electrolux" refrigerators in use, using kerosene as the heat source rather than natural gas or propane. I believe kerosene fueled refrigerators are sold in the USA to some of the Amish, giving them home refrigerators without having to use electricity.

    When I was a kid, we had a "modern" refrigerator. It was a Kelvinator with a "streamlined" cabinet having rounded corners and a raised center portion on the exterior of the door, along with plenty of chrome plating on the hinges and door handle. I believe that old reefer had the Kelvinator name and "product of Nash Motors" on it's insignia. As I was to learn in HS, it was Lord Kelvin who identified the extremely cold temperature known as "absolute zero"- the point at which all molecular motion in substances ceases. Clever name for a refrigerator, and I wonder how many homemakers ever gave the origins of that name any thought. Still more years later, a man came to work in the purchasing department of the powerplant I retired from. His first name is Kelvin. I'd see him on about 0630 when we'd get our coffee, and we'd wish each other "good morning". At some point, being in a humorous mood, I hollered out: "LORD KELVIN !!! The discovered of ABSOLUTE ZERO !!!" This became a standard greeting for Kelvin when anyone walked into the purchasing department. Of course, no one bothered to delve further into "absolute zero" in a scientific sense, but took it to mean that Kelvin had discovered how to show up and do absolutely nothing.

    Our old Kelvinator reefer lasted a good 20 years, being sold to someone who needed a cheap refrigerator. It made room for a newer refrigerator with squared off corners and a bigger storage capacity. One of my buddy's fathers is a German immigrant woodworker in his later 80's. For a good 40 years, he has had the same model Kelvinator refrigerator as we has when I was kid, out in his woodworking shop. The difference is the shelves are long gone, and there is always a half-keg of Gennessee Cream Ale on tap- the tap being mounted on the side of the fridge. The word is that old Kelvinator is at least 60 years old and going strong. It was the first fridge the oldtimer bought when he and his wife settled on Long Island after arriving in the USA. It survived a few moves of their household, and wound up in the woodworking shop as a beer keg cooler. It says a lot of that old Kelvinator, as many newer home reefers last somewhere around 10 years before conking out and winding up being hauled to the scrap yard or put out on "white metal pickup day".

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    I attached a picture of an ad for a General Electric refrigeratior from a page in a 1927 Saturday Evening Post magazine that I bought on line from a now closed Ebay store.
    My grandparents had a similar fridge with a square unit on top instead of a round one so perhaps a little newer or a different brand or model.
    Sorry its a little blurry .
    It page is too large for my scanner and I tried using a flash but it washed out part of the picture.
    Jim
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails g.e.-fridge-1927.jpg  

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    Scout camps are frequent users of gas fueled refrigerators. Both during my scouting tenure (Treasure Valley) and my son's tenure (Camp Bell) the Troop site would include a dining fly, bench for tubs (found underneath) a gas fired griddle, and a gas fired refrigerator of probably Servel fame.

    During my tenure, we had problems with food spoilage, and complained to the camp staff about how the refrigerator "wasn't cold enough." Our local thermometer was showing temps in the high 40s for that fridge, this with 75 degree days in the woods.

    The camp truck showed up the next morning with instruction to remove all our food. "We'll solve your refrigerator problems" the two burly counselors said as the refrigerator was emptied.

    When all was out, they disconnected the gas, and then "stood the refrigerator on its head" by physically turning it end-over-end. Where it stayed for about an hour.

    At the end of the hour they returned it to normal position, re-connected the gas, re-lit the pilot and in only a few minutes the machine was noticeably colder than it had been.

    It froze our food overnight until our cook "re-calibrated" the thermostat within.

    Something about being upside down re-sets the machine?

    Joe in NH

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    I have heard that a local frozen food plant in Erie still runs ammonia, allot of it.

    Apparently it handles colder temps better ? And makes for a quicker "Flash Freezing" of food ?

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    I was helping move an old refrigerator out of the 6th floor of a walk up on 5th street on the lower east side of manhattan, (down the street from the clubhouse) in the 1970s.

    It was still working, but not very well, if I recall, and it was an absolute beast. not the narrowest of stairs, (marble in fact, no tenement here), but I got the bright idea to pull the compressor out to make it lighter.

    well, I convinced the other parties involved this might be a good idea, and commenced bending the tubing back and forth. " it will be a lot easier if we pull this 100 lb hunk of iron outta it, and its just freon, right?" ....well, no, it wasn't . it was ammonia. we all ran out of the building, (after i opened the door to the roof for ventilation). standing outside, trying to look casual, we then noticed sirens getting louder.

    this part gets a little hazy, but I think there was a bit of " huh? no, I have no idea..." involved, and I think it took a few quires of different individuals before the truth came out, but in the end, New York's Bravest found it highly amusing. "so kid, that was a bright idea! you came up with that?" (it no doubt helped that the perp was 15.) we let it air out for a half an hour or so, and then resumed the task, however, for some reason, nobody was the slightest bit inclined to listen to any other ideas I had that afternoon...

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    Ive been hit by both sulfur dioxide and ammonia cutting up old fridges for bits.....had liquid ammonia squirt out all over me ......fortunately the old man knew to have a hose nozzle fogging ,and just sprayed me.....Ammonia fog clears straight away with water,in fact a tank of ammonia will suck itself full of water in seconds.......nearest I came to disaster was a big ammonia compressor ,Trane maybe,or Carrier,.....undid all the head bolts ,and gave the head a hit with a hammer ,and the massive spring holding the barrel down launched the 100lb head straight at me.Missed by inches ,or it would have killed me....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe in NH View Post
    When all was out, they disconnected the gas, and then "stood the refrigerator on its head" by physically turning it end-over-end. Where it stayed for about an hour.

    At the end of the hour they returned it to normal position, re-connected the gas, re-lit the pilot and in only a few minutes the machine was noticeably colder than it had been.

    It froze our food overnight until our cook "re-calibrated" the thermostat within.

    Something about being upside down re-sets the machine?

    Joe in NH
    Could it have been a draining of water that had built up in the lines?

    Great thread by the way, and I still think Joe Michaels needs to write a engineering memoir. Or at least, continue to do so here on PM.

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    I just sent the owner a link to this thread. Here was his quick reply:
    "Wow Frank! Thanks! It is sitting next to a freezer.. I had no idea.. I will change the post. So, it probably has no value? and I see a hazard warning about the ammonia. Really appreciate the info for the warning! "


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