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EPA Orders Diaz Chemical to Address Problems at Its Facility

Release Date: 04/16/2003
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(#03034) New York, N.Y. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Diaz Chemical to take specific actions to correct deficiencies in the way that it operates its facility in Holley, New York. The requirements are contained in an administrative order issued by EPA to the corporation for failure to meet a provision of the Clean Air Act.

“This provision of the Clean Air Act is only used when there is serious risk of accidental releases because a facility is not operated well,” said Jane M. Kenny, Regional Administrator. “EPA has stepped in and demanded that improvements be made to protect the community and the environment.”

This is the first such order issued in EPA Region 2 for violation of the “General Duty Clause” of the Clean Air Act. This clause states that companies have a general duty to take necessary to prevent air releases, and to minimize the consequences of accidental releases to maintain safe facilities.

Diaz Chemical maintains a chemical manufacturing and storage facility located at 40 Jackson Street, directly adjacent to a residential community in the Village of Holley in Orleans County. The facility produces, processes and handles chemicals, including some that are extremely hazardous substances. The order was issued after several EPA inspections at the facility revealed that Diaz Chemical does not operate with appropriate safeguards to protect its employees and the surrounding residential community. The inspections, conducted in March, June and August 2002, showed deficiencies such as a lack of pressure alarm systems and closed loop temperature control systems at the facility. In addition, for some of its processes, Diaz did not have appropriate procedures in place to calibrate equipment and test for mechanical integrity and did not properly identify and label certain valves.

EPA’s order requires the company to install safety-related equipment, put additional safety procedures in place, and take these actions in accordance with specific and stringent deadlines ranging from one to three months from the effective date of the order. Failure to comply with this order could lead to penalties and court-ordered compliance.

On January 5, 2002, there was an accidental release of a mixture including chlorofluorophenol (CFP), toluene and steam from the facility. As a result of the release, approximately 15-20 families near the facility moved from their homes to motels, hotels and apartments with financial assistance from the company. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) performed urine sampling for the displaced residents and others in the community of Holley and found that some of those tested had CFP in their urine. In May 2002, Diaz Chemical notified the families who had been temporarily relocated that the company could no longer pay for their relocation costs. EPA took over the funding and is still doing so for 10 relocated families the balance have returned to their homes.

Since May 2002, EPA has performed air, soil, and/or interior surface sampling of 22 homes, a day care facility and a school that were potentially affected by the January 2002 release. EPA’s investigations found CFP in air samples inside eleven homes, four in measurable amounts and the remainder at levels too low to be quantified. In addition, tests of porous materials, such as pillows and carpets, in some of the homes also showed CFP contamination, and soil testing showed that six residential properties contain CFP in soils. CFP was not detected in the school or day care facility. While there is no toxicity information about CFP, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry used data from similar compounds to conduct a public health assessment. The health assessment concluded that the health risk associated with the January 2002 release was likely minimal. However, because the data used were not specifically for CFP, no final conclusions could be drawn.

Currently, EPA is planning additional sampling, followed by cleaning, painting and replacing porous items in the eight homes that sampling has indicated have interior CFP contamination, as well as removal of contaminated soils on the six properties where CFP was found in soils. Once these activities are completed, EPA will perform additional air sampling in these homes and the temporarily relocated families will be able to move back into their residences.