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EPA settles ammonia violations with food producers

USA: The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed penalties totalling over $250,000 with two California food producers for violating safety laws governing their ammonia refrigeration systems.  

The two companies, Del Mar Food Products Corp and S Martinelli & Co, both based in Watsonville, California, were found to be non-compliant with the US Clean Air Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. 

An EPA inspection in September 2021 found that Del Mar Food Products failed to provide appropriate measures to mitigate risks in the operation of the ammonia refrigeration systems at its frozen fruit and vegetable production facility. This encompassed ventilation design and calibration of release sensors. As part of the settlement, the company will pay a $131,420 penalty.

S Martinelli & Co, which produces apple juice at its two facilities in Watsonville, was also the subject of an inspection in September 2021. 

During those inspections the EPA identified that the company failed to design and maintain a safe facility and failed to minimise the consequences of an accidental release from its ammonia refrigeration systems. This included not constructing its ammonia machinery rooms and related equipment to meet safety standards. 

The EPA says that although the company has made significant changes, the settlement includes tasks that the company must complete to come back into compliance with federal regulations, including demonstrating to the EPA that fire resistance modifications have been installed and are functioning at one of its facilities. 

As part of the settlement, the company will also pay a $127,828 penalty. In addition, the company agreed to complete a supplemental environmental project valued at $67,000 to purchase emergency response equipment for the Watsonville Fire Department.

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