Multistar pays $135,000 EPA penalty for violations of ammonia storage and risk management rules
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice have reached a settlement with Othello-based Multistar Industries, Inc. after the agencies found the company violated multiple chemical accident prevention provisions of the Clean Air Act meant to protect the public and first responders from dangerous chemicals.
The company’s Othello, Washington facility stores and distributes anhydrous ammonia and other chemicals. Exposure to high concentrations of anhydrous ammonia – commonly used in industrial refrigeration, agricultural, and cold storage facilities – can lead to serious lung damage and even death.
Following inspections in 2013 and 2017, EPA alleged Multistar failed to comply with Clean Air Act Section 112(r) requirements that facilities storing more than 10,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are properly designed, operated, and maintained to minimize the risk of an accidental release. Specifically, EPA alleged that Multistar failed to properly design its ammonia storage and distribution system, adequately maintain inspection and testing records on certain equipment, and develop and implement written operating procedures for certain aspects of its ammonia operations consistent with industry standards.
Multistar also failed to promptly update deficiencies identified in required compliance audits and failed to meet requirements of a 2016 compliance order Multistar entered into with EPA.
“Facilities that store hazardous materials like anhydrous ammonia have an obligation to follow regulations designed to protect our communities and environment from potentially catastrophic consequences of accidents,” said Ed Kowalski, director of EPA Region Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Seattle. “Failure to comply with the law puts first responders and members of the surrounding community in harm’s way.”
In addition to requiring Multistar to pay a $135,000 penalty, the settlement requires the company to pay penalties if it violates the risk management program requirements at its ammonia storage and distribution facility, and provide compliance records and reports to EPA on a semi-annual basis.
This case is part of EPA’s Chemical Accident Risk Reduction National Compliance Initiative which focuses on minimizing the likelihood of chemical accidents and reducing the risk to people’s health and the environment.
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 and implement 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 Eastern District of Washington, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.