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News Releases from Region 01

Belfast, Maine Processor Provides Emergency Response Equipment to Community under EPA Settlement

Contact Information: 
Dave Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)

BOSTON – A Belfast, Maine company that runs an ammonia refrigeration system at its potato processing plant has agreed to pay $60,500 in civil penalties and to spend $83,400 on equipment for emergency responders and on public safety improvements at its facility to resolve claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it violated federal clean air laws in its use of ammonia.

According to an agreement with EPA's New England office, Penobscot McCrum will ensure that trained emergency responders are available to respond quickly to any ammonia release at the facility to limit the consequences of any ammonia release that might occur.

Penobscot McCrum agreed to provide emergency response equipment to the Belfast Fire Department and state Department of Environmental Protection to improve their abilities to detect and safely respond to releases of ammonia and other toxic substances. The company will also install an enhanced ammonia detection system, alarm system, and a security system at the plant, which will provide early identification of ammonia releases and early notification to first responders, employees, and the local population.

This case stems from an October 2014 inspection where EPA found eight potential violations of the Clean Air Act and its Risk Management Plan regulations. Among the alleged violations, inspectors found that the manner in which the facility was maintained undermined the facility's ability to prevent or respond to a potential ammonia release in several ways, including: failure to maintain the ammonia refrigeration system in a manner consistent with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices and failing to have an adequate emergency response program.

"EPA's biggest concern was that the closest emergency responders specially trained to respond to ammonia releases were located about an hour away, yet the facility was in a downtown location where a release of this toxic gas could quickly injure people," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Ammonia is a useful refrigerant with some environmental advantages, but companies must operate safely and follow federal regulations."

Anhydrous ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Exposure at high concentrations is immediately dangerous to life and health. Ammonia is flammable at certain concentrations in air and can explode if released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.

Facilities operating systems with more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are subject to the Risk Management Plan regulations of the Clean Air Act, while smaller refrigeration systems are subject to the "General Duty Clause" of the Clean Air Act.

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