U.S. EPA Fines Arizona’s Uni-Kool for Violating Federal Chemical Safety Standards
YUMA, Ariz. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with The Uni-Kool Partners (Uni-Kool) corporation to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act. The violations pertain to chemical accident prevention requirements at Uni-Kool’s produce storage and distribution facility in Yuma. Uni-Kool will pay a $26,250 civil penalty and spend at least $98,438 to further improve environmental, health and safety conditions at the facility.
Uni-Kool’s industrial refrigeration system uses large quantities of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical highly corrosive to skin, eyes and lungs. Thousands of facilities nationwide make, use and store extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia. Catastrophic accidents at these facilities—historically about 150 each year—result in fatalities and serious injuries, evacuations, and other harm to human health and the environment. The Uni-Kool case falls under EPA’s National Compliance Initiative, a program to reduce risks of accidental releases at anhydrous ammonia refrigeration facilities.
“Ensuring facilities lower the risk of releases of hazardous substances is paramount in our mission to protect human health,” said John Busterud, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the country’s Pacific Southwest. “This settlement encourages Uni-Kool to invest in making its Yuma facility safer for the local community.”
A 2018 EPA inspection of the 42-acre facility found Uni-Kool violated Clean Air Act regulations by failing to safely manage anhydrous ammonia. The company also failed to timely and accurately submit chemical inventory information regarding the ammonia at the facility to the State of Arizona and local emergency response agencies, in violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act.
In addition, the inspection found several deficiencies in the facility’s compliance with requirements relating to hazard assessment, pipe and instrument labeling, training, operation, safety information reporting, and mechanical integrity.
Uni-Kool has addressed the identified violations. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to complete a supplemental environmental project valued at $98,438 to enhance safety equipment and procedures at the Yuma facility. The project includes installing a new alarm system with sensors to detect ammonia leaks that will automatically shut down the ammonia system, trigger ventilation fans and notify all within the facility of an emergency through strobe lights and horns.
For more information on The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan Program and EPA’s work related to hazardous chemicals, please visit these websites:
- Risk Management Plan requirements under the Clean Air Act: https://www.epa.gov/rmp.
- EPA’s National Compliance Initiative related to reducing risks of accidental releases at ammonia refrigeration facilities: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-reducing-accidental-releases-industrial-and-chemical
- Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act program: https://www.epa.gov/epcra/what-epcra.