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Cold storage company fined over $195,000

USA: A cold storage company has paid penalties of over $195,000 for violating federal laws relating to the use of ammonia.

The company, Maritime International and its subsidiaries, Bridge Terminal and Connecticut Freezers, will also perform supplemental environmental projects worth about $163,000 that make safety upgrades to its facilities and provide local first responders with emergency response equipment and training.

The case relates to the handling of ammonia used in the refrigeration systems in the company’s facilities in New Bedford, Massachusetts and East Hartford, Connecticut.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed the company and its subsidiaries violated the Clean Air Act’s General Duty Clause, which requires users of extremely hazardous substances to take steps to prevent and mitigate accidental releases, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act, which requires companies handling hazardous chemicals to notify state and local emergency response personnel of the presence of those chemicals. 

It said that Maritime had not taken all the required steps to design and maintain a safe facility and had not adequately minimised the consequences of an accidental release of ammonia. Maritime was also said to have failed to file hazardous chemical inventory reports with state and local emergency response agencies.

As part of the supplemental environmental projects agreed to, Maritime will install beyond-compliance safety upgrades at two of its New Bedford facilities to help prevent ammonia releases, donated emergency response equipment to the New Bedford Fire Department, and provided ammonia-related emergency response training to 26 local first responders and refrigeration operators in the Hartford area.

Both Maritime facilities are said to be located less than a half mile from residential homes, restaurants, and businesses. Maritime no longer operates the East Hartford facility. New Bedford, in particular, is home to several ammonia refrigeration facilities and has experienced a number of ammonia releases in recent years, including a release at one of the facilities subject to EPA’s enforcement action.

This case stems from information learned about Maritime’s facilities following inspections by EPA in the summer of 2018 following an ammonia release at the Fish Island, New Bedford facility. In July 2018, approximately 3,200 lb of anhydrous ammonia were released from the New Bedford facility. Following EPA’s inspections, Agency staff notified the company about the alleged violations. The company was cooperative and took the necessary steps to bring its facilities into compliance with the Clean Air Act, in accordance with administrative compliance orders Maritime entered into with EPA in 2019 and 2020.

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