US EPAUSA: A Massachusetts cold storage company is spending over $0.5m, primarily on safety improvements, to resolve claims it violated ammonia handling regulations.

In an agreement with the New England office of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Pioneer Valley Refrigerated Warehouse (aka Pioneer Cold) of Chicopee agreed to pay $41,000 in penalties and to spend $322,100 on environmental projects to improve the safety of the surrounding community. The company has already spent more than $158,000 to bring its facility into compliance with the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations under the Clean Air Act.

The environmental projects are designed to reduce the likelihood of a release of anhydrous ammonia occurring, and to limit the severity of any ammonia release that might occur from Pioneer’s facility. The settlement requires Pioneer to upgrade certain refrigeration equipment to a more protective model and to install a computerised control system at the facility.

Pioneer Cold will replace two ammonia liquid pumps at the facility with hermetically sealed pumps, to significantly reduce the potential for ammonia releases from pump failure. The computerised controls will also detect problems earlier, helping to prevent a release and minimising the consequences of any release that does occur.

The settlement is also designed to improve emergency planning and response capabilities in the community surrounding the facility. Pioneer Cold will provide emergency response equipment to emergency responders within the City of Chicopee. The equipment includes two types of gas detectors, and requires funding for five years of calibrating the units. The company will also contract with a consultant to develop and conduct a table-top exercise programme for company employees and members of the Chicopee Fire Department to discuss their roles during an emergency and their responses to particular emergency scenarios.

The EPA action followed an on-site inspection in the December 2012. A $33,718 penalty was subsequently issued against Pioneer for failure to notify the state of a release of anhydrous ammonia in August 2008 and for failure to respond to a request for information about that release.

According to the inspection, Pioneer failed to comply with management requirements of the RMP regulations; failed to accurately evaluate off-site consequences in release scenarios; failed to adequately identify, evaluate, and control hazards; failed to comply with safety information, operating procedures, training, mechanical integrity, compliance audit, and contractor requirements; and failed to have an adequate emergency response programme.