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Professional Food Services

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Bedford County
Bedford, VA

EPA ID# VASFN0305449

5th Congressional District

Last Update: May 1999

Other Names

PFS Ammonia Release

Current Site Status

A unified team of Federal, State and Local response personnel implemented and completed an emergency response to a release of ammonia in March 1999. Once the uncontrolled release of ammonia was stabilized and dangerous vapor levels diminished, the task of removing remaining ammonia and fixing the compromised refrigeration system was implemented by the company owner.

Site Description

The Professional Food Service Emergency Response was conducted at a food storage facility in Bedford, Virginia. The industrial setting of the response location was overshadowed by the proximity of a school and residential setting situated in the potential area of downwind impact by anhydrous ammonia. A leak of ammonia from a refrigeration system could not be stopped by facility personnel. Responding officials from local and State resources determined that the leak could not be physically stopped as valves did not function and took action to minimize over pressurization of the system. Dangerous gas levels, an uncontrolled leak, and a need for additional resources prompted Virginia Department of Emergency Services to request EPA assistance. The loss of the refrigeration system also threatened to spoil a large inventory of food products in the facility.

Site Responsibility
This site was an emergency response conducted by Removal Response personnel and then transferred to the Potentially Responsible Party.
NPL Listing History
This is not an NPL Site.

Threats and Contaminants

The leaking ammonia system filled portions of the facility with ammonia levels well above concentrations immediately dangerous to life and health. The gas escaped the building and threatened the nearby community should the compromised refrigeration system fail further or weather conditions change.

Cleanup Progress

EPA and resources from the US Coast Guard's Atlantic Strike Team and Technical Assistance contractors mobilized to the Site with ability to conduct entry into the facility with the highest level of personal protective equipment. On scene, the EPA resources merged with the deployed resources of the Commonwealth of Virginia and numerous Local and regional entities. The unified efforts of Federal, State and Local command officials developed and implemented a strategy to isolate and contain the leak with a water spray. Under a controlled water spray, the ammonia gas leak was stopped and converted to an aqueous solution. Contaminated runoff waters were contained so as not to impact the Bedford treatment facility. Once the leak was contained, actions to ventilate trapped gases were modeled and coordinated with local officials and school board members. Members of the response team and the potentially affected community agreed to tailor operations to ensure safety of children attending school. After gas levels were reduced to safe concentrations, the facility personnel were allowed to remove valuable product after proper regulatory inspection and the transfer of ammonia from the damaged system was initiated by the facility owner.


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