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EPA and DOJ Proposed Settlement improves safety of Chelsea, Massachusetts facility dealing with dangerous chemicals

05/22/2019
Contact Information: 
Emily Bender (bender.emily@epa.gov)
617-918-1037

Chelsea, Mass. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a proposed settlement with Kayem Foods, Inc. to resolve alleged violations of the Risk Management regulations issued by EPA under Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act. Under the Risk Management regulations, Kayem Foods is required to properly manage the anhydrous ammonia used in the refrigeration system at its Chelsea, Massachusetts facility in order to protect the safety of workers, emergency responders, and the surrounding community. The proposed settlement resolves claims in a complaint filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of EPA simultaneously with the settlement.

Kayem Foods operates a meat processing, cooking, packaging, and storage facility located in a densely populated neighborhood in Chelsea. The facility uses an ammonia-based refrigeration system in its production process. Anhydrous ammonia is an efficient refrigerant with many operational benefits, but it is also a dangerous chemical that if accidently released can have catastrophic consequences to a community. Due to the toxicity of anhydrous ammonia and the fact that Kayem Foods's system contains over 10,000 pounds of it, the facility is subject to the Risk Management regulations, which require Kayem Foods to have protocols in place to properly manage the ammonia to greatly reduce the possibility of its accidental release.

In July 2014, EPA discovered violations of the Risk Management regulations at the Kayem Foods facility. Kayem Foods was out of compliance and needed to upgrade and improve access to critical valves in case of emergency, provide alarms to warn of a release, reposition pressure relief piping to keep from endangering anyone nearby when in use, improve maintenance of system piping, improve the ventilation system for managing a potential ammonia release, and make other corrections at the facility.

Under the proposed agreement, Kayem Foods has agreed to pay a $138,281 penalty. Kayem Foods has also provided EPA information indicating that the Chelsea Facility is now in compliance with the various EPA requirements for managing anhydrous ammonia. Kayem Foods fully cooperated with EPA throughout the enforcement process.

Background

The goal of the Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act is to prevent accidental releases of substances that can cause serious harm to the public and the environment. Facilities that fail to comply with the requirements put facility personnel, employees of adjacent businesses, emergency responders, and the local population and environment at risk of harm from such releases. This settlement is part of an EPA National Compliance Initiative to reduce risk to human health and the environment by preventing chemical accidents. To read more about this initiative: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-reducing-accidental-releases-industrial-and-chemical

Facilities subject to the Risk Management regulations must update their risk management plans at least every five years. Because 2019 is the 20th anniversary of when many facilities first created these plans, many of these facilities are due to update and resubmit their risk management plans to EPA this year.

For smaller facilities in New England that use fewer than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, EPA Region 1 is working to improve compliance with the General Duty Clause requirement of Section 112(r)(1) of the Clean Air Act that such facilities must identify hazards that may result from accidental releases, using appropriate hazard assessment techniques. EPA is currently publicizing this compliance effort and will be issuing information requests to certain facilities to learn whether they have performed a process hazard review. If a company has not, EPA will offer to resolve that violation with an expedited settlement agreement that includes a reduced penalty if the company completes a process hazard review with assistance from a third-party expert and meets with emergency responders to plan for a potential release from the facility.

Additional Information:

EPA information on key safety measures for ammonia refrigeration systems: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/safety-standards-ammonia-refrigeration