South Portland Manufacturer Pays Penalty for Violating Chemical Handling Regulations
S. PORTLAND, MAINE – A company that made media for growing plants in South Portland, Maine, has agreed to pay a $137,294 penalty to settle charges by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it violated the Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention rules.
In the action, EPA alleged that Quick Plug N.A. failed to follow federal regulations in its use of toluene diisocyanate, an extremely hazardous substance known as TDI that it used in making a soil-like media for growing seeds. EPA further alleged that the company failed to prepare and submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) due to its use of the chemical. RMPs help facilities manage their extremely hazardous chemicals properly to ensure public safety.
"Complying with risk management plan regulations helps companies prevent accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances," said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Szaro. "These requirements are designed to help protect local communities and the emergency responders who may be called on if there is an accident at the facility."
Quick Plug, a company based in the Netherlands, made trays of growth media for seedlings and small plants in South Portland until it stopped operating in Maine in December 2020. During an EPA inspection of the facility before it closed, inspectors documented several issues, including improper handling and storage of TDI.
TDI is a regulated extremely hazardous substance under the Clean Air Act's chemical accident prevention regulations. TDI, a possible carcinogen, can cause respiratory irritation or breathing difficulties if it is inhaled. Those at risk can develop chronic asthma with even minimal exposure.
EPA alleged that from about 2016 to 2018, this facility used more than the threshold quantity of 10,000 pounds in its process and was required to submit a risk management plan to EPA, including a registration for its process. Quick Plug did not file a risk management plan during this time. When Quick Plug was operating with less than 10,000 pounds of TDI, it was subject to the Clean Air Act's General Duty Clause, which has more general accident prevention and mitigation requirements.
Among the issues named by EPA, inspectors found missing signs; fire hazards caused by use of extension cords; use of a portable electric space heater inside the chemical storage area; improper storage of combustible wood pallets; lack of proper ventilation; failure to maintain equipment that was leaking TDI; and open drums of TDI-containing chemicals.
In addition, EPA said secondary containment was missing in several chemical storage areas, and safety showers were missing at eyewash stations near the carousel line and chemical storage hut.
- EPA information on Risk Management Plan requirements of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act: https://www.epa.gov/rmp
- EPA information on the General Duty Clause requirements of Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act: https://www.epa.gov/rmp/general-duty-clause-under-clean-air-act-section-112r1