U.S. EPA Penalizes Four California Facilities More Than $800,000 for Clean Air Act Chemical Safety Violations
Under settlements, facility owners will pay fines, make safety improvements
SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced settlements with four companies for alleged violations of Clean Air Act chemical release prevention requirements at four anhydrous ammonia facilities in Central California. The companies will pay more than $826,000 in civil penalties and make safety improvements to their facilities, with the goal of protecting the public and first responders from dangerous chemicals.
Anhydrous ammonia can cause serious, often irreversible health effects when released. In addition to potential harmful effects from inhalation of or skin contact with this substance, it is highly flammable. Anhydrous ammonia is considered an extremely hazardous substance.
“It is paramount that facilities properly manage the handling of extremely hazardous substances to prevent dangerous incidents,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Director of Enforcement and Compliance , Amy Miller. “Industry needs to properly manage dangerous substances or face significant Clean Air Act penalties.”
Details on the Settlements
A September 2019 EPA inspection of the Dreyers Grand Ice Cream Inc. facility located in Bakersfield, California, found the company failed to: comply with process safety and hazard evaluation requirements; correct deficient equipment; manage change requirements; comply with compliance audit requirements; and submit accurate hazardous chemical reports for anhydrous ammonia.
Dreyers paid a penalty of $301,066 and improved process safety by: adding machinery room signage, panic hardware, and an eyewash and safety shower; moving machinery room ammonia sensors; adding labeling; and improving machinery room emergency ventilation. The company also corrected deficient equipment and addressed outstanding recommendations from hazard evaluations and compliance audits.
An April 2018 EPA inspection of the Kern Ice and Cold Storage LLC. facility in Bakersfield, California found the company failed to: identify hazards and conduct an adequate hazard review; design and maintain a safe facility; and minimize the consequences of a release.
Kern Ice agreed to a civil penalty of $115,012 and will make modifications to the facility to improve safety. These will include adding labeling, improving equipment access, installing emergency stop switches, and improving machine room ventilation.
A June 2018 EPA inspection of Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc., owned by Dole Foods LLC and located in Marina, California, found the company failed to design and maintain a safe facility. Dole Fresh Vegetables also did not comply with process safety, hazard evaluation, and operating procedure requirements.
Dole Fresh Vegetables paid a penalty of $206,621 and made modifications to the facility to improve safety such as installing physical barriers around ammonia piping, improving machinery room ventilation, and improving emergency shutoff valve access. The facility also corrected deficient equipment, addressed outstanding hazard evaluation recommendations, and updated operating procedures.
A June 2018 EPA inspection of the Dole Packaged Foods LLC. owned by ITOCHU Corporation and located in Atwater, California, found the company failed to: comply with process safety, hazard evaluation, operating procedure, and training requirements; correct deficient equipment; and develop and implement an adequate emergency response plan.
Dole Packaged Foods paid a civil penalty of $203,445 and installed physical barriers around ammonia pressure vessels and piping. The company also agreed to update operating procedures and ammonia operator training, conduct a mechanical integrity audit and address the audit’s recommendations, conduct an emergency response team drill, and address outstanding action items from previous drills.
About Anhydrous Ammonia
Thousands of facilities nationwide make, use, and store extremely hazardous substances, including anhydrous ammonia. Catastrophic accidents at ammonia refrigeration facilities—historically about 150 each year—result in fatalities and serious injuries, evacuations, and other harm to human health and the environment. EPA inspected these facilities as part of the Agency’s National Compliance Initiative, which seeks to reduce risk to human health and the environment by decreasing the likelihood of accidental releases and mitigating the consequences of chemical accidents.