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Release Date: 8/28/1995
Contact Information: Arnold Robbins, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1486

  (San Francisco)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has announced that it has issued civil complaints against Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Commerce, Calif. and Kraft Foods Inc., Tulare, Calif., for failure to notify federal and state authorities at the time of accidental releases of ammonia.

     Nationwide, other companies were recently charged with similar violations as part of a coast-to-coast enforcement initiative seeking a total of over $1.4 million in penalties.  Failure to immediately notify the proper authorities during and after an accidental release of hazardous chemicals violates the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

    "Toxic chemical releases can pose serious health and environmental risks," said Steve Herman, Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance in Washington, D.C. "Companies are obligated to notify state, local and federal response authorities when these releases occur, so that we can take steps to protect the public and the environment.  We will take appropriate enforcement action against those who fail to meet their legal responsibility to report completely and promptly."  

    U.S. EPA has proposed penalties against Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream of $90,100, and Kraft Foods Inc. of $42,500, for failure to notify the National Response Center and the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) when ammonia, an extremely hazardous material, was released from their facilities.  Dreyer's released 4,000 pounds of ammonia to the air and soil on March 21, 1993, and 390 pounds on June 8, 1995.  Dreyer's also failed to provide written follow-up reports to the SERC as required by EPCRA.  On November 19, 1994, Kraft released about 4,400 pounds of ammonia into the air.  Ammonia is a corrosive gas which is severely irritating to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and upper respiratory system.  Prolonged exposure to ammonia can be fatal.

      "EPCRA provides for easy public access to the annual chemical inventories of the businesses in the community, as well as records of their hazardous material releases," said Keith Takata, regional deputy director of Superfund Program.  "When a business fails to provide this required information to the appropriate authorities, the public is denied their right to know."
     Timely notification is especially vital to ensure that emergency response personnel can properly evaluate the nature and extent of a response action at the facility or neighboring community. Timely notification also ensures that local citizens, fire departments and health care providers have sufficient information to make informed decisions about protecting the community and the environment - before and after a hazardous material release.
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