Enforcement and Assistance in New England
EPCRA & RPM Case and Chemical Accident Highlights
Emergency Planning & Preparedness 2006
In March 2006, EPA released findings of its chemical accident investigation and safety audit at PolyCarbon Industries, Inc. of Leominster, Mass. EPA’s investigation followed an explosion and release of mixed xylenes that occurred at the facility in 2005. PolyCarbon Industries is a specialty chemicals manufacturer that serves the pharmaceutical and other industries. The explosion and resulting fire occurred during the manufacture of triethylammonium decahydrodecaborate via reaction of triethylamine with decaborane in a mixed xylenes solvent. The process building was destroyed and one person suffered minor injuries. Major investigation observations included the following: (1) numerous changes to the process were made just prior to the batch that exploded (these changes were not thoroughly evaluated on a smaller scale before they were implemented on the production-sized batch); and, (2) process safety controls were deficient.
EPA determined the most probable cause of the accident was the omission of a critical operating step. Other possible contributing factors included an excess triethylamine charge, water infiltration, inadvertent manufacture of excess decaborane, and an over-application of steam on the reactor jacket. The facility agreed to cease production of this chemical and will incorporate numerous safety upgrades at their new location.
In March 2006, EPA issued the results of its chemical accident investigation and safety audit at Barber Foods of Portland, Maine following a 1,700 pound release of anhydrous ammonia. The company produces various types of frozen chicken entrees and specialty items for consumer, restaurant and institutional sales. EPA’s investigation determined that a Barber refrigeration mechanic incorrectly reversed an assembly bolt on a pump oiler mechanism. After reversing the bolt, the mechanic failed to properly torque and leak check the assembly. This caused an O-ring seal on the oiler to fail, allowing air to enter the system. Air caused an excessive pressure buildup in the refrigeration system and this caused five pressure relief valves to vent ammonia gas to the atmosphere. Liquid ammonia was also released from the pump assembly. Other deficiencies included: failure to properly monitor engine room operating conditions; lack of vessel inventory or equipment specification schedule; no ammonia warning sign or flashing beacon outside the engine room; the thermosyphon receiver had an isolation valve blocking the dual pressure relief valves; and the evacuation of personnel was hindered by a failed alarm circuit. EPA issued an order to the company on September 26, 2006, seeking $52,560 in penalties for violations of the release notification provisions of CERCLA and EPCRA.
General Duty Clause – Callahan Co. & NOVA Chemical
In FY06, EPA brought two General Duty Clause enforcement cases against two chemical companies in Massachusetts. In April 2006, EPA settled one of its first General Duty Clause cases against Callahan Co. of Walpole, Mass. Among other things, the complaint alleged that Callahan, a bulk chemical delivery company, had failed to employ adequate safeguards to prevent two releases of acetone -- one of about 1,300 gallons and another of 200 gallons. Acetone is a highly flammable substance. The second release caused damage to an adjacent wetland when the spilled acetone washed into the wetland after a rain storm. Under the April 2006 settlement, Callahan agreed to pay a penalty of $40,000 and undertake two SEPs worth $317,000. One SEP requires the company to make substantial storm water management improvements, and the other requires the company to install environmental safeguards to its above-ground chemical tank farm.
The second General Duty Clause case involved a January 7, 2004 release of 4,500 pounds of extremely flammable styrene from the NOVA Chemical Inc. plant in Indian Orchard, Mass. The release occurred when errors were made during the startup of the facility's polystyrene process. A subsequent EPA investigation revealed that the polystyrene process was not safely designed. The General Duty Clause count was settled in May 2006 with a penalty of $13,800 and a $14,000 SEP requiring the donation of emergency response equipment to the fire department. Nova spent $1.5 million in FY06 to improve the safety of its polystyrene process and will undertake further safety improvements in FY07.
Risk Management Plan Updates
In FY06, the Region examined whether facilities required to have Risk Management Plans (RMPs) pursuant to the Clean Air Act had completed the necessary compliance audits and updates (including, for example, updating the Process Hazard Analysis and the Off-Site Consequence Analysis). Ten companies in New England have agreed to expedited settlements for violations of these update violations and will pay penalties totaling $13,013. The penalties ranged from $630 to $3,650, depending on the type of violation at each facility. In addition, the Region filed an RMP update case against Ocean State Power of Harrisville, R.I. seeking $32,000 in penalties.
EPCRA – Little Bay Lobster Co. & Harodite Industries
In June 2006, the Little Bay Lobster Co. of Newington, N.H. agreed to pay a $86,000 fine for violating EPCRA and the Clean Water Act. Little Bay owns and operates a lobster pound and bait fish operation on the Piscataqua River. The company was cited for failure to file the required emergency and hazardous chemical inventory forms under EPCRA with local and state emergency planning authorities from 2002 through 2004. Little Bay was required to file the forms based on the use of anhydrous ammonia, an EPA extremely hazardous substance. Little Bay has since filed the required forms.
In April 2006, Harodite Industries of Taunton, Mass. agreed to pay a $26,424 fine for violations of CERCLA, EPCRA and the Clean Water Act. The CERCLA and EPCRA complaints stem from a sodium hydroxide spill during a chemical delivery on March 2, 2005. The complaint alleged that Harodite violated the federal regulations by discharging sodium hydroxide into the Three Mile River without a permit and failing to notify the National Response Center and the Local Emergency Planning Committee immediately upon learning of the release.