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U.S. EPA settles with Honolulu-based BEI Hawaii over a Chlorine Gas Release and Pesticides Violations

10/15/2020
Contact Information: 
Alejandro Diaz (diaz.alejandro@epa.gov)
808-541-2711

HONOLULU — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with BEI Hawaii (BEI) for alleged violations of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and Clean Air Act at its Hilo facility on the Big Island and its Honolulu facility. This action will protect both communities against potential releases of hazardous chemicals. BEI will pay a $127,209 civil penalty.

“BEI’s improper chemical and pesticides management has led to releases that endangered workers and the community,” said EPA Regional Administrator John Busterud. “We are pleased that BEI has corrected its procedures to ensure the proper management of chemicals and pesticides.”

In September 2016, a release of liquefied chlorine gas under pressure occurred at the Hilo Facility. The BEI employees failed to wear the required protective personal equipment (PPE) in investigating the leak on September 22 and when handling the leaking cylinder on September 23 in violation of the directions on the EPA-approved label and FIFRA. 

Chlorine is a gas with a very irritating odor. It is used in the production of thousands of products and for water disinfection. Exposure to low levels of chlorine can result in nose, throat, and eye irritation. At higher levels, breathing chlorine gas may result in changes in breathing rate and coughing, lung damage and death.

BEI violated section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, which requires development and implementation of risk management plans to address risks from accidental releases of regulated toxic substances, including chlorine. BEI failed to develop and implement an adequate standard operating plan that would require staff to use PPE in the event of an accidental release and failed to train its employees in responding to an accidental release at the Hilo facility.

The Risk Management Program Rule of Clean Air Act Section 112(r) requires facilities that use extremely hazardous substances to develop a Risk Management Plan which identifies the potential effects of a chemical accident, identifies steps the facility is taking to prevent an accident, and spells out emergency response procedures should an accident occur. These plans also provide valuable information to local emergency response personnel to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in their community. This case is part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative to reduce risks from chemical accidents which can pose serious risks from such accidents.

To find information on the Clean Air Act Section 112 (r) Chemical Release Prevention / Risk Management Plan Rule, visit https://www.epa.gov/rmp.

To find information on the National Compliance Initiative, visit https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-compliance-initiative-reducing-accidental-releases-industrial-and-chemical.

As a result of the 2016 incident, EPA and the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture conducted compliance inspections and reviews of BEI’s Hilo and Honolulu facilities and identified four additional FIFRA violations at the Honolulu facility. Two violations occurred in 2018 when tank trucks from the Honolulu facility refilled bulk storage tanks containing pesticides without leaving copies of the pesticide labels with customers or attaching copies of the labels on the tanks containing the pesticide products. Two additional violations involved improper storage of insecticides in violation of the EPA-approved labeling in November 2019.

FIFRA and its supporting regulations help safeguard the public, the environment, and facility workers by ensuring that pesticides are used, stored, and disposed of safely and that pesticide containers are adequately cleaned. Pesticide registrants, refillers (i.e., those that repackage pesticides into refillable containers), and others in the business of selling and distributing pesticides must comply with applicable regulations and pertinent sections of their labels. All who apply pesticides, including consumers, are required to follow the label instructions for proper use, storage, and disposal.

For more information on pesticides, please visit https://www.epa.gov/pesticides.

For more information on FIFRA, please visit http://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-federal-insecticide-fungicide-and-rodenticide-act.

For more information on EPA’s regulations concerning pesticide containers and storage of pesticides, which include many of the requirements at issue in these cases, visit https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/pesticide-containers.

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