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Anheuser-Busch to pay $537,000 for ammonia safety violations

USA: Leading brewer Anheuser-Busch has agreed to pay a $537,000 penalty to resolve violations of US safety laws relating to its use of ammonia in its refrigeration systems.

Anheuser-Busch will also implement a comprehensive safety review of all eleven of its breweries that use anhydrous ammonia after US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uncovered violations of the US Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention requirements and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The safety review will occur at facilities located in New Hampshire, California, Colorado, Texas, Ohio, Florida, New York, Virginia, Georgia, and Missouri. 

The world’s largest brewing company, Anheuser-Busch owns multiple global brands including Budweiser, Michelob, Stella Artois, and Beck’s.

Action was taken following EPA inspections of Anheuser-Busch’s facilities in Merrimack (New Hampshire), Fort Collins (Colorado) and Fairfield (California) between 2016 and 2019. The EPA also investigated an ammonia release that occurred in 2018 at Anheuser-Busch’s Fort Collins facility, injuring two employees.

Under the settlement, Anheuser-Busch must hire an outside, independent expert to conduct a safety review at each of its 11 flagship breweries nationwide that use anhydrous ammonia in accordance with two of the most recent and comprehensive ammonia refrigeration industry standards and issue recommended actions based on those reviews. Anheuser-Busch must also develop and implement corrective action plans based on those reviews. These terms will provide increased protection to approximately 172,000 people in the communities surrounding Anheuser-Busch’s facilities.

Many of the EPA’s allegations for all three facilities are related to Anheuser-Busch’s failure to comply with recognised and generally accepted good engineering practices. The ammonia refrigeration industry publishes standards, codes, and guidance that outline measures to help prevent and mitigate accidental releases of ammonia. 

The EPA points out that these standards apply layers of protections to make facilities safer and are routinely updated to keep up with improving technology, newly identified hazards, industry operating experience, and/or incidents indicating more stringent hazard controls are needed. In addition, there are requirements for reporting releases and compliance with community-right-to-know laws to provide emergency responders with critical information needed for a safe response. 

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