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U.S. EPA settles with supermarket chain Vons over chemical safety violations

10/16/2019
Contact Information: 
Alejandro Diaz (diaz.alejandro@epa.gov)
415-972-3242

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled with the Vons Companies Inc. (Vons) over violations of federal chemical-release prevention and reporting requirements at its dairy processing facility located in Commerce, California. The company will pay a $168,043 civil penalty.

In 2017, EPA inspectors found violations of the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan regulations at Vons’ facility, Jerseymaid Milk Products. The violations included deficiencies in the facility’s process safety requirements, mechanical integrity program, documentation of personnel training, and follow-up on compliance audit findings. The facility also lacked necessary signs and labels; lacked auditory or visual alarms to alert employees of an ammonia release; and had inadequate emergency response measures, including ammonia detectors and emergency ventilation override switches.

“Our action ensures that Vons’ facility will handle hazardous chemicals more safely,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “We’re pleased to resolve these safety issues and will continue to work with facilities to improve risk-management practices and ensure the safety of nearby communities.”

Thousands of facilities nationwide, many of which are in disproportionately affected communities, make, use and store extremely hazardous substances. 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.

This case is part of EPA’s National Compliance Initiative to reduce risks of accidental releases at anhydrous ammonia refrigeration facilities. Jerseymaid Milk Products’ industrial refrigeration system uses large quantities of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic chemical highly corrosive to skin, eyes, and lungs.

The Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program requires facilities with regulated hazardous substances to document hazard assessments detailing the potential effects of an accidental release and a prevention program that includes safety precautions and maintenance, monitoring, and employee training measures. When properly implemented, risk management plans help prevent chemical accidents and minimize their impact should they occur.

For more information on the Risk Management Plan requirements under the Clean Air Act, visit:  https://www.epa.gov/rmp

For more information on EPA’s National Compliance Initiative related to reducing risks of accidental releases at ammonia refrigeration facilities, visit: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/national-enforcement-initiative-reducing-risks-accidental-releases-industrial-and-chemical

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