News Releases from Region 01
EPA Settlements with Companies Across New England Improve Compliance to Help Prevent Chemical Accidents
(BOSTON) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced seven settlements with companies in four New England states for alleged violations of chemical accident prevention and reporting laws. All the cases address the safe use of anhydrous ammonia in refrigeration and cooling units. Collectively, the seven companies have spent more than $750,000 to comply with the laws and will pay more than $580,000 in penalties to settle EPA's claims of alleged violations.
"These settlements reflect EPA's commitment to protect New Englanders from exposures to hazardous chemicals in the places they live, play and work," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. "These agreements will improve compliance with important laws that help protect communities and provide critical resources for local emergency responders and communities."
Anhydrous ammonia is an efficient but toxic refrigerant. EPA is working to prevent ammonia releases from industrial refrigeration systems by helping companies comply, enforcing violations of chemical accident prevention and reporting laws, and hosting workshops to help emergency responders safely address ammonia leaks.
Anhydrous ammonia is used at a variety of businesses, such as cold storage warehouses, food processing, dairies, ice-makers, and skating rinks. It does not deplete the ozone layer as some other refrigerants do, but ammonia has some dangerous properties and must be handled with care. The chemical is highly corrosive, and inhaling ammonia gas can be fatal. It is also flammable at certain concentrations in the air, which is one reason why refrigeration machinery rooms must have proper ventilation.
More information on the settlements:
- Finicky Pet Food, Inc. of New Bedford, Mass., in September agreed to certify to EPA it was in compliance with federal clean air laws, pay a $89,140 penalty, and provide almost $100,000 worth of protective clothing to the New Bedford fire department. EPA alleges that the company failed to annually report the presence of hazardous chemicals to emergency response and planning agencies, as required by the federal Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act. The company also allegedly violated "General Duty Clause" requirements of the Clean Air Act that apply to ammonia refrigeration systems that have less than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, by failing to properly assess the refrigeration system for hazards; maintain and label piping and equipment; appropriately store combustible materials; and have adequate ventilation and ammonia alarms.
- McCain Foods USA, Inc., Easton, Maine agreed to pay a $225,000 penalty for alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act and the Clean Air Act's Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions, commonly known as the risk management planning rule. McCain, which produces frozen potato products, uses anhydrous ammonia in two refrigeration processes at the facility and stores more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia, the threshold for the risk management planning rule. The settlement also requires McCain to work with local emergency responders on a plan to notify local Amish residents in the event of an ammonia release, as Amish families may not have modern communications equipment.
- Twenty-Five Commerce, Inc of Norwalk, Conn., agreed to correct alleged violations and pay a $27,095 penalty for failing to notify the National Response Center of an ammonia release under the Superfund law and failing to submit required reports to emergency response and planning agencies under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. EPA inspected the facility after a 2016 ammonia release was detected by employees of a neighboring company. The company also was not meeting standards of care expected under the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause.
- Guida-Seibert Dairy Company of New Britain, Conn., agreed to pay a $157,214 penalty to settle allegations the company violated the risk management planning rule of the Clean Air Act and chemical release reporting requirements of the Superfund law. After EPA inspected the New Britain dairy, a clamp truck accidentally ran into an ammonia feed line, causing an ammonia release.
- The Maine Wild Blueberry Company of Machias, Maine, a subsidiary of Oxford Frozen Foods, agreed to pay a $53,000 penalty to settle allegations it had violated the risk management planning rule at its blueberry processing plant and cold storage warehouse in Machias. One of EPA's concerns was that the nearest team of emergency responders with the training needed to enter buildings during an ammonia release was located hours away. After the inspection, the company made changes to ensure local fire fighters would never have to enter the facility to turn off key equipment and ventilate ammonia.
- New England Sports Management Corporation of Marlborough, Mass., which runs a large ice skating rink complex in Marlborough, agreed to pay a $24,263 penalty to settle claims that the company had not completed a required hazard review nor submitted reports notifying emergency responders about the presence of ammonia at its ice rink. The company uses anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant to keep the ice frozen.
- High Liner Foods (USA), Inc., of Portsmouth, N.H., agreed to pay $7,200 for alleged violations of the risk management planning rule at its cold storage warehouse.
The companies all cooperated with EPA's New England regional office. Two of these settlements were with companies that EPA inspected after ammonia releases occurred, and five cases were undertaken to prevent such releases.
In 2017 and 2018, EPA co-sponsored ammonia safety trainings in all six New England states for about 300 company employees and emergency responders. These trainings included information about industry standards of care for preventing ammonia release and safe responses to any releases that do occur.
These settlements are 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-risks-accidental-releases-industrial-and
- EPA information on Risk Management Plan requirements under the Clean Air Act: https://www.epa.gov/rmp
- EPA information on key safety measures for ammonia refrigeration systems: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/safety-standards-ammonia-refrigeration
- EPA information on Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know (EPCRA): https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-emergency-planning-community-right-know-act