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Boston Seafood Distributor to Pay $700,000 Under Settlement with EPA and DOJ for Alleged Chemical Accident Prevention Violations

10/24/2018
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1017

BOSTON – A seafood distribution company that formerly operated in Boston, Mass. will pay a cash penalty, subject to court approval, settling allegations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the company violated federal environmental laws relating to the use of anhydrous ammonia, sulfuric acid, and lead at its facility in Boston's Seaport District. An employee died there during an accidental ammonia release in 2016.

Under the settlement filed today, Stavis Seafoods, Inc. has agreed to pay $700,000 in civil penalties.  The settlement agreement resolves claims in a Complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA simultaneously with the settlement, including failure to comply with accident prevention and mitigation provisions of the Clean Air Act, hazardous chemical reporting requirements of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and chemical release notification requirements of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

"Facilities that use hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia and sulfuric acid, have an obligation to carefully follow safety standards designed to protect nearby communities," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. "This case clearly illustrates the critical importance of complying with chemical accident planning, prevention, and mitigation requirements.  The Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention requirements help prevent public health or environmental harm from the release of hazardous chemicals and other potentially dangerous conditions resulting from chemical use, while reporting releases and community right-to-know laws provide emergency responders with critical information needed for a safe response."

Many of the violations relate to a March 23, 2016 incident in which more than 2,100 pounds of anhydrous ammonia was released from the refrigeration system at Stavis's Boston facility. The facility was located in a densely populated, urban neighborhood, in close proximity to hotels, restaurants, residences, and other businesses.  In addition to the death of one of the company's employees, during the release, streets were shut down and sheltering in place was ordered for several hours. Although it has many operational and environmental benefits as a refrigerant, anhydrous ammonia is an extremely hazardous chemical that is corrosive to skin, eyes, and lungs, can be immediately dangerous to life and health, and under limited conditions, is flammable and explosive.

The alleged violations include Stavis's failure to comply with the "general duty clause" of the Clean Air Act, under which facilities using hazardous chemicals must identify hazards, design and maintain the facility in a safe manner by taking action to prevent accidental releases, and take steps to minimize the consequences of any accidental releases that do occur. Other violations alleged in the Complaint include the failure to notify national emergency response authorities about the ammonia release and failure to submit hazardous chemical inventory forms to state and local emergency response agencies.

Following the release, Stavis removed the remaining ammonia from the facility in accordance with a compliance order issued by EPA. No injunctive relief was required since the facility is no longer in operation.  Stavis fully cooperated with EPA throughout the enforcement process.

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