EPA Settlement Requires Dyno Nobel to Improve Chemical Safety at St. Helens, Oregon, Facility
St. Helens, Ore. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Dyno Nobel, a Delaware-based chemical manufacturing company, has agreed to correct environmental violations, paying a civil penalty of $492,000 and providing local communities with $939,852 in emergency equipment. EPA alleges that Dyno Noble violated federal laws meant to protect the public and first responders from dangerous chemicals like the anhydrous ammonia manufactured and stored at the company’s St. Helens, Oregon, facility.
The facility makes anhydrous ammonia and related chemical products used for fertilizer, refrigerant, and other agricultural and industrial applications. Exposure to high concentrations of anhydrous ammonia – commonly used in industrial refrigeration, agricultural, and cold storage facilities – is immediately dangerous to life and health and can lead to serious lung damage and even death.
“Facilities that store and use hazardous materials like anhydrous ammonia have a special obligation to follow regulations designed to protect our communities and environment from potentially catastrophic consequences of accidents,” said Chris Hladick, regional administrator for EPA Region 10. “Failure to comply with the law puts first responders and members of the surrounding community in harm’s way.”
Among the 14 counts in its complaint against the company, the EPA alleged that Dyno Nobel violated both the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) by its failure to immediately report to federal, state and local agencies large, unplanned ammonia releases in 2010 and 2015, as well as its failure to accurately estimate and report the total amount of routine ammonia releases from the facility to EPA’s publicly-available Toxic Release Inventory.
The EPA also charged Dyno Nobel with failing to comply with Clean Air Act Section 112(r) requirements that facilities storing more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia maintain adequate Risk Management Programs to ensure their workers are adequately trained and that ammonia processes are properly operated and maintained to minimize the risk of a spill or accidental release. The deficiencies included failure to adequately maintain certain equipment, regularly test certain equipment, and develop and implement written operating procedures for certain aspects of its operations. The information in a facility’s Risk Management Plan helps local fire, police, and emergency response personnel prepare for and respond to chemical accidents and is useful to citizens in understanding the chemical hazards in communities.
In addition to paying a $492,000 civil penalty, as part of the settlement, the company will provide authorities in Columbia County in Oregon with $939,852 in emergency response equipment, file revised estimates of its total ammonia releases, update its Risk Management Plan, and hire a third party to audit its compliance with chemical release reporting, emergency response, and risk management regulations.
The emergency equipment the company has agreed to purchase will improve the ability of local emergency responders in Columbia County, Oregon, to respond to releases of ammonia and other hazardous chemicals from the Dyno Nobel facility and other facilities in the area, thereby decreasing dangers and risks associated with releases of anhydrous ammonia and other hazardous substances from the facilities.
This case falls under EPA’s Chemical Accident Risk Reduction National Compliance Initiative, an agency effort which focuses on reducing the risk to human health and the environment by minimizing the likelihood of chemical accidents.
In 2018 Dyno Nobel paid a $250,000 criminal penalty related to the 2015 unplanned ammonia release.
EPCRA was passed in 1986 in response to the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, caused by an accidental release of methylisocyanate, which killed or severely injured more than 2000 people. To reduce the likelihood of such a disaster in the U.S., Congress imposed requirements for federal, state and local governments, tribes, and industry to conduct emergency planning and maintain "Community Right-to-Know" reporting on hazardous and toxic chemicals.
The Community Right-to-Know provisions of EPCRA help increase the public’s knowledge and access to information on chemicals at individual facilities, their uses, and releases into the environment. States and communities, working with facilities, can use the information to improve chemical safety and protect public health and the environment.
For additional information on EPCRA, please read our fact sheet.
About Clean Air Act Section 112(r)
Introduced in the aftermath of chemical disasters in Bhopal, India, and Institute, West Virginia, Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act requires companies of all sizes that use certain listed regulated flammable and toxic substances to develop a Risk Management Program, which includes:
- A hazard assessment that details the potential effects of an accidental release, an accident history of the last five years, and an evaluation of worst-case and alternative accidental release scenarios.
- A prevention program that includes safety precautions and maintenance, monitoring, and employee training measures.
- An emergency response program that spells out emergency health care, employee training measures and procedures for informing the public and response agencies (e.g., the fire department) should an accident occur.
For more information on Clean Air Act Section 112(r) go to:
Today’s consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
For more information on this settlement and to read the consent decree: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/dyno-nobel-information-sheet