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$1.3m to ensure ammonia safety

USA: Seven New England companies will pay more than $580,000 in penalties and spend more than $750,000 in compliance costs after alleged violations of ammonia refrigeration safety laws.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced seven settlements with companies in four New England states for alleged violations of chemical accident prevention and reporting laws. All the cases address the safe use of anhydrous ammonia in refrigeration and cooling units. Collectively, the seven companies have spent more than $750,000 to comply with the laws and will pay more than $580,000 in penalties to settle EPA’s claims of alleged violations.

“These agreements will improve compliance with important laws that help protect communities and provide critical resources for local emergency responders and communities,” said EPA New England regional administrator Alexandra Dunn.

The EPA says it is working to prevent ammonia releases from industrial refrigeration systems by helping companies comply, enforcing violations of chemical accident prevention and reporting laws, and hosting workshops to help emergency responders safely address ammonia leaks.

Finicky Pet Food Inc of New Bedford, Massachusetts, in September agreed to certify to EPA it was in compliance with federal clean air laws, pay a $89,140 penalty, and provide almost $100,000 worth of protective clothing to the New Bedford fire department. EPA alleges that the company failed to annually report the presence of hazardous chemicals to emergency response and planning agencies, as required by law. The company also allegedly violated requirements of the Clean Air Act by failing to properly assess the refrigeration system for hazards; maintain and label piping and equipment; appropriately store combustible materials; and have adequate ventilation and ammonia alarms.

McCain Foods USA Inc, Easton, Maine agreed to pay a $225,000 penalty for alleged violations of laws governing two refrigeration processes at the facility which stores more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia. The settlement also requires McCain to work with local emergency responders on a plan to notify local Amish residents in the event of an ammonia release, as Amish families may not have modern communications equipment.

Twenty-Five Commerce Inc of Norwalk, Connecticut, agreed to correct alleged violations and pay a $27,095 penalty for failing to notify the National Response Center of an ammonia release and failing to submit required reports to emergency response and planning agencies. EPA inspected the facility after a 2016 ammonia release was detected by employees of a neighbouring company.

Another Connecticut company, Guida-Seibert Dairy Company of New Britain, agreed to pay a $157,214 penalty to settle allegations the company violated risk management rules and chemical release reporting requirements. After EPA inspected the New Britain dairy, a clamp truck accidentally ran into an ammonia feed line, causing an ammonia release.

The Maine Wild Blueberry Company of Machias, Maine, a subsidiary of Oxford Frozen Foods, agreed to pay a $53,000 penalty to settle allegations it had violated the risk management planning rule at its blueberry processing plant and cold storage warehouse in Machias. One of EPA’s concerns was that the nearest team of emergency responders with the training needed to enter buildings during an ammonia release was located hours away. After the inspection, the company made changes to ensure local fire fighters would never have to enter the facility to turn off key equipment and ventilate ammonia.

New England Sports Management Corporation of Marlborough,Massachusetts, which runs a large ice skating rink complex in Marlborough, agreed to pay a $24,263 penalty to settle claims that the company had not completed a required hazard review nor submitted reports notifying emergency responders about the presence of ammonia at its ice rink.

High Liner Foods (USA) Inc, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, agreed to pay $7,200 for alleged violations of the risk management planning rule at its cold storage warehouse.

Two of the settlements were with companies that EPA inspected after ammonia releases occurred, and five cases were undertaken to prevent such releases.

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