Lenexa, Kan. -- Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has agreed to pay a $450,000 civil penalty to settle alleged violations of Clean Air Act regulations in Waterloo, Iowa, the Environmental Protection Agency announced today.
As part of a consent decree lodged today in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, BPI has agreed to conduct third-party audits of its compliance with the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Program requirements at the company’s South Sioux City, Nebraska, facility. BPI will then have 90 days to submit a plan to EPA that will correct identified violations within one year.
Today’s settlement stems from a 2007 incident at the now-closed Waterloo, Iowa, facility that released more than 1,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia into a production area occupied by BPI workers. The anhydrous ammonia trapped two BPI employees resulting in the permanent disability of one worker and the death of the other. During the response to the release, BPI directed its employees to enter the facility while dangerous levels of airborne anhydrous ammonia remained present.
After the 2007 incident, EPA gathered information about the release and facility operations through information requests and an inspection. Based on these activities, EPA determined that BPI did have a risk management program on paper, but failed to implement the program at the Waterloo facility, contributing to the 2007 incident.
“The implementation of a risk management program is integral to the safe operation of facilities where anhydrous ammonia is used,” Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “The 2007 incident in Waterloo demonstrates that having a plan only on paper increases the risk of accidental exposure to both employees and first responders.”
In 2005, with a goal of preventing accidents and helping regulated entities understand their obligations in accordance with environmental laws, EPA Region 7 published an Accident Prevention and Response Manual for Anhydrous Ammonia Refrigeration System Operators. That guide, now in its third edition, is available online.
Anhydrous ammonia is considered a poisonous gas but is commonly used in industrial refrigeration systems. Exposure to its vapors can cause temporary blindness and eye damage and irritation of the skin, mouth, throat, respiratory tract and mucous membranes. Prolonged exposure to anhydrous ammonia vapor at high concentrations can lead to serious lung damage and death.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. Once it is published in the Federal Register, a copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.