EPA announces settlements for NH3 violations
Seven New England firms have spent over $750,000 to comply with laws, and will pay more than $580,000 in penalties.
By Michael Garry
Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced seven settlements with companies in four New England states for alleged violations of chemical accident prevention and reporting laws. All the cases address the safe use of anhydrous ammonia in refrigeration and cooling units.
The companies all cooperated with EPA’s New England regional office. Two of these settlements were with companies that EPA inspected after ammonia releases occurred, and five cases were undertaken to prevent such releases.
Collectively, the seven companies have spent more than $750,000 to comply with the laws and will pay more than $580,000 in penalties to settle EPA’s claims of alleged violations.
“These settlements reflect EPA’s commitment to protect New Englanders from exposures to hazardous chemicals in the places they live, play and work,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. “These agreements will improve compliance with important laws that help protect communities and provide critical resources for local emergency responders and communities.”
The settlements were with the following companies:
· Finicky Pet Food, Inc., New Bedford, Mass., in September agreed to certify to EPA it was in compliance with federal clean air laws, pay a $89,140 penalty, and provide almost $100,000 worth of protective clothing to the New Bedford fire department. EPA alleges that the company failed to annually report the presence of hazardous chemicals to emergency response and planning agencies, as required by the federal Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act. The company also allegedly violated “General Duty Clause” requirements of the Clean Air Act that apply to ammonia refrigeration systems that have less than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, by failing to properly assess the refrigeration system for hazards; maintain and label piping and equipment; appropriately store combustible materials; and have adequate ventilation and ammonia alarms.
· McCain Foods USA, Inc., Easton, Maine agreed to pay a $225,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act and the Clean Air Act’s Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions, commonly known as the risk management planning (RMP) rule. McCain, which produces frozen potato products, uses anhydrous ammonia in two refrigeration processes at the facility and stores more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, the threshold for the risk management planning rule. The settlement also requires McCain to work with local emergency responders on a plan to notify local Amish residents in the event of an ammonia release, as Amish families may not have modern communications equipment.
· Twenty-Five Commerce, Inc., Norwalk, Conn., agreed to correct alleged violations and pay a $27,095 penalty for failing to notify the National Response Center of an ammonia release under the Superfund law and failing to submit required reports to emergency response and planning agencies under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. EPA inspected the facility after a 2016 ammonia release was detected by employees of a neighboring company. The company also was not meeting standards of care expected under the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause.
· Guida-Seibert Dairy Company, New Britain, Conn., agreed to pay a $157,214 penalty to settle allegations the company violated the risk management planning rule of the Clean Air Act and chemical release reporting requirements of the Superfund law. After EPA inspected the New Britain dairy, a clamp truck accidentally ran into an ammonia feed line, causing an ammonia release.
· The Maine Wild Blueberry Company, Machias, Maine, a subsidiary of Oxford Frozen Foods, agreed to pay a $53,000 penalty to settle allegations it had violated the risk management planning rule at its blueberry processing plant and cold storage warehouse in Machias. One of EPA’s concerns was that the nearest team of emergency responders with the training needed to enter buildings during an ammonia release was located hours away. After the inspection, the company made changes to ensure local fire fighters would never have to enter the facility to turn off key equipment and ventilate ammonia.
· New England Sports Management Corporation, Marlborough, Mass., which runs a large ice skating rink complex in Marlborough, agreed to pay a $24,263 penalty to settle claims that the company had not completed a required hazard review or submitted reports notifying emergency responders about the presence of ammonia at its ice rink. The company uses anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant to keep the ice frozen.
· High Liner Foods (USA), Inc., of Portsmouth, N.H., agreed to pay $7,200 for alleged violations of the risk management planning rule at its cold storage warehouse.
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