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$220k settles ammonia handling violations

USA:  Two Rhode-Island-based facilities have agreed to pay penalties totalling nearly $220,000 to settle claims that they violated laws regulating the handling of ammonia. 

Seafreeze Ltd, a fish processing and cold storage company, has agreed to pay a penalty of $122,622 to settle claims by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding ammonia handling at its facility in North Kingstown, RI. The company has also agreed to update its process hazard review to evaluate potential risks associated with its location in a hurricane evacuation zone.

Bottling Group LLC, operating as Pepsi Beverages Company, and CB Manufacturing Company Inc, a beverage manufacturing and storage company, have agreed to pay a penalty of $96,852 to settle EPA claims pertaining to its facility in Cranston, RI. The companies have also agreed to conduct audits at the Cranston facility and at 13 other ammonia refrigeration facilities in the corporate family to ensure compliance with minimum safety requirements.

The Pepsi facility in Cranston, which uses approximately 5,800 lb (2,631kg) of anhydrous ammonia in its refrigeration system, is located in a mixed-use area in two buildings having a combined square footage of 220,000. The manufacturing and warehousing operations run 24 hours a day, six days a week. Within a mile of the facility are numerous residences, a hospital, a prison, several state office buildings, and numerous commercial operations.

During an inspection of the facility, several violations were observed that would fail to minimise the consequences of an accidental release, including inadequate ammonia release alarms inside and outside of the ammonia refrigeration machinery rooms (AMR), no emergency ventilation override switches outside or adjacent to the AMR, pressure release valves discharging horizontally or downwards, putting people at risk of being sprayed with ammonia, and no eyewash and safety showers outside the primary entrance to the AMR.

Seafreeze, which uses approximately 8,700 lb (3,946kg) of anhydrous ammonia in its refrigeration system in North Kingstown, is located immediately adjacent to Narragansett Bay. It is also approximately one-third of a mile from several marinas, one mile from a few homes, and 1.5 miles from an elementary school, a residential neighbourhood, and a small airport.

Over the course of six months, Seafreeze experienced what are considered three small releases due to cracks and leaks on facility equipment, all below the reportable quantity of 100 lb (45kg). 

Following the releases, EPA conducted an inspection of Seafreeze’s facility and subsequently notified Seafreeze of the alleged violations under the Clean Air Act: a failure to design and maintain a safe facility, and to minimize consequences of accidental releases that do occur. 

The company was cooperative and agreed to take the necessary steps to bring its facility into compliance with the Clean Air Act, as well as update its process hazard review to take into consideration its location within a hurricane evacuation zone.

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