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News Releases from Region 01

Clean Air Act Settlement Improves Chemical Safety at Bloomfield, Conn. Meat Processor

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

BOSTON – A Bloomfield, Conn. company that runs an ammonia refrigeration system at its meat processing plant has agreed to pay $65,000 in civil penalties to resolve claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it violated federal clean air laws as well as the federal right-to-know law in its use of ammonia.

In an agreement with EPA's New England office, Rachael's Food of 76 Granby St., which produces sausages, hot dogs and cold cuts, faced three alleged violations of Clean Air Act requirements designed to prevent chemical accidents, and reporting requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.

This case stems from an Oct. 2014 inspection where EPA identified alleged violations of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act due to potentially dangerous conditions relating to the ammonia refrigeration process. Inspectors also found that Rachael’s Food had not previously provided chemical inventory information to emergency responders that are required by the federal right-to-know law. This law ensures that emergency responders are aware of the presence and amount of ammonia at the facility.

After agreeing to a Sept. 2015 order that required Rachael's Food to correct the Clean Air Act deficiencies, the company submitted a plan and schedule to correct the violations within three months and subsequently followed through on this plan.

"The company agreed to and has followed through on correcting these issues, so the neighborhoods surrounding the facility are better protected from the risk of harm from accidental ammonia releases," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator for EPA's New England office. "All facilities working with ammonia and hazardous chemicals are required to properly report their use, and to follow laws meant to protect the health of the community and our environment."

Among the alleged violations, Rachael's failed to do a required hazard analysis relating to its work with anhydrous ammonia; lacked critical information about the facility, like how much ammonia was in the refrigeration system; had inadequate ventilation; lacked necessary signs and labels; lacked basic safety practices including failing to prevent or repair damage to pipe insulation and rust on pipes, and inadequate access to and egress from the machinery room and the roof; and had inadequate emergency response measures, including inadequate ammonia detectors and alarms and a lack of eyewash and shower stations.

Rachael's Food, which bought this plant and its small ammonia refrigeration system in 2012 from Grote and Weigel, Inc., is located in a populated area across the street from a mall, bordered by homes and businesses and within a mile of schools, a nursing home, a university, a Boys and Girls club, playgrounds, and other recreation areas.

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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